Free menstrual products on U of A campus 'going like crazy'
EDMONTON -- A new initiative at the University of Alberta is being praised by female staff and students.
In September, the U of A Students' Union began offering free menstrual products at over a dozen locations across campus.
"Grabbing it quickly and putting it in your back pocket is so easy," said education student Katie Kidd.
"They're going like crazy. People are grabbing them all the time and to me it's a great indicator that this is definitely a need," said Students' Union President Akanksha Bhatnagar.
Bhatnagar says the university used to have dispensers for feminine hygiene products but it got rid of them years ago.
"It was really expensive for the university to continuously refill them. So they took away things students wanted … but didn’t really find a solution."
She campaigned on bringing the products back and when she started as students' union president in September, she used part of the organization's discretionary fund to jumpstart the idea.
“We bought, I think it was over 10,000 and they just went.”
"I don't think people realize how much of a barrier it can be because if you're on campus and you don't have a menstrual product, you just have to go home. You can't go to classes," said Kidd. "I've seen people post on social media looking for one."
Students say there is a lot of reasons women on campus might not have access to menstrual products. They could have simply forgotten to pack one, got their period unexpectedly or are having trouble affording it.
"Being a student is quite expensive. You have tuition — which is going up — you have rent, you have whatever else you need, childcare, stuff like that and on top of that you have to buy groceries. So if you don’t have to spend $20 on a box of tampons or pads, that can actually be two or three meals for you," said Kidd.
LOOKING FOR A LONG-TERM SOLUTION
The students' union just received a one-time sponsorship deal for about 30,000 pads but Bhatnagar says finding a long-term sponsor has been difficult.
"There's been a lot of assumption women will pick the product they love and are loyal to, earlier on in their cycle," said Bhatnagar. "To me, it's very unfortunate … people are clearly using it so there's clearly a market."
"It would be awful if this had to end because we just don’t have the funding for it," Kidd said. "It makes coming to campus just a little bit easier."