Those Who Menstruate Need Period Products: Get Ovary It
Originally Published: April 24, 2020
Revised: April 24, 2020
We were talking about periods in class. A girl mentioned she once had gotten her period and didn’t have any supplies on her. She had to wait until she could get to the Student Union, where they have free menstrual products. The Student Union is one of only three out of over 200 buildings on the University of Maryland’s campus where menstrual products are supplied for free.
We had that conversation as we sat in groups and talked about issues that mattered to us on the first day of a class dedicated to learning about and implementing innovative social change. Four other girls and I named our class-group “Get Ovary It.” We wanted to solve the issue of a lack of accessible menstrual products on campus.
Menstrual Health Matters
Eighty-six percent of U.S. women surveyed by the Free the Tampons Foundation reported that they’ve started their period unexpectedly in public without the supplies they need. As students, that means skipping class to go to the convenience shop or back home. If menstrual products were available in campus bathrooms, attendance could increase up to 2.4 percent, according to GoAuntFlow.com.
Instead of skipping class, we want students to be able to go to the bathroom knowing that they could find a tampon or pad if they needed one. So, while other groups in our class were focused on completing assignments, we were focused on how to realistically get free and accessible menstrual products on campus.
Get Ovary It
Based on the research we found, we knew there was a need for accessible menstrual products, but we had to prove it.
As a group, we contributed our own menstrual products to create a basket of products to place in three different bathrooms: a library bathroom, a dining hall bathroom and an academic building bathroom. We were testing to see if products would be used or abused. We found that products were used when available, and nobody took the entire basket.
Once we had that data related to our campus, we had to make people aware of the issue. Periods just aren’t normally talked about. But that’s an issue: Access to products is further complicated by societal taboos that discourage open conversation about menstruation. The look on some faces as we stood up in class and talked about menstruation and menstrual products in class was priceless. But as we gave our presentations we opened up this dialogue and made people aware of an issue they didn’t know existed.
Once more people were made aware, we needed a way to visibly show how many people supported our mission. We created a campaign for students to sign, and the support we got was incredible. Our school’s newspaper, The Diamondback, wrote an article on us and our project, as well as an opinion piece that said period products should be free on our campus. Then something crazy happened: The Washington Post’s The Lily reached out to us and wanted to write an article about our project. We felt like we were on top of the world, and this project was our world.
As the semester wrapped up, the project became more than a grade to us. A lot of the projects in this class were just ideas and not something that would be continued once the semester ended, but not for us. There was no way we were going to stop until we got this done, the question though was: How?
Free Menstrual Products Require Funding
Because we wanted to implement dispensers and supply menstrual products for free, we had to find ways to fund this project. We applied for a grant from a committee on campus and are waiting to hear if it is approved or not. We were also awarded $1,000 from an end-of-class pitch competition that was held at the end of the semester and are looking into other ways for funding.
But we aren’t the only group on our campus working to get free and accessible menstrual products. Without us knowing, resident hall assistants were inspired by our mission and stocked one residence hall with free pads and tampons and are hoping to expand to all residence halls.
The money isn’t necessarily easy to find, but whatever challenges we face, we’ll “Get Ovary It” and fight for the menstrual products we need. Here are some ways you can join the movement:
- Lobby for bills that require schools to provide free menstrual products for students,
- Join one of over 600 chapters of Period., a national organization fighting to end menstrual poverty and stigma, and
- Continue to educate yourself and those around you.
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