Queen’s to stock free menstrual products on campus

Initiative suspended due to COVID-19, new residence campaign will address gendered stigma on menstruation

Jessica Dahanayake, former AMS vice-president (operations), said there is room for improvement in alleviating gendered stigma surrounding menstruation. 
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

The AMS announced that on April 30, the University committed to installing and stocking free menstrual products on campus.

Pads and tampons will be made available in dispensers located in a number of high-traffic buildings to make menstrual products more physically accessible in the Queen’s community. 

The University did not provide The Journal with a list of locations. 

“The AMS executive approached [the University] about this project, which we fully supported,” Donna Janiec, vice-principal (finance and administration), wrote in a statement to The Journal. “Our Facilities team has worked with the AMS to find a solution in a few high traffic buildings, which we will pilot.” 

While the University has scheduled a pilot of the project for the fall term, Jessica Dahanayake, who oversaw the initiative during her term as AMS vice-president (operations), said the project has been paused because of production limitations caused by COVID-19.

“The availability of the products is dependent on the company producing the number required and a sufficient number of replacement cartridges,” Dahanayake wrote in a statement to The Journal. Once the University returns to regular operations, it will provide an updated timeline for the project, she added.

When The Journal inquired about the delay, the University did not offer any details about when the pilot would be implemented.

Dahanayake said this project comes after the Society received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback for other menstruation advocacy campaigns they have undertaken in the past.

In January, the Student Life Centre (SLC) distributed more than 900 period products, which had been collected by staff across the AMS Services, in restrooms in the JDUC and Queen’s Centre (QC). 

According to Dahanayake, there was a high demand for this program as all items had been taken each time SLC staff arrived to refill the bins. The products were replenished weekly to maintain availability of five pads, five tampons, and five liners per bin in the restrooms. 

“Students were grateful the products were there when they needed them and found them to be lifesavers when [they needed] a menstrual product,” Dahanayake wrote.

The Society also collaborated with Queen’s Period to normalize the sight of period products through the addition of educational posters in residences. The posters, featuring images of a pad, tampon, and menstrual cup aimed to bring all first-years to the same level of exposure and knowledge of menstruation and menstrual products.

She said the campaigns in residences were successful in spreading awareness of the inaccessibility of and stigma associated with menstrual products.

“As students started to see menstrual products in their washrooms, female, gender-neutral and male washrooms, they started to recognize that this is an essential product that students need access to,” Dahanayake wrote.

However, she said there is still room for improvement in alleviating the gendered stigma around menstruation.

This year, a poster for the Take1Leave1 initiative in a gender-neutral bin was vandalized, another bin was ripped out of the wall in the men’s washroom in the ARC, and menstrual products were thrown in the trash in the men’s washroom in the JDUC.

“[W]e think menstruation education also ties into education about the fact that there are no gender requirements for someone to menstruate,” Dahanayake added.

The new AMS and ResSoc teams said they are committed to ensuring education on menstruation continues for first years living in residence. A new addition to their residence campaign will explain that people of all genders can menstruate. They are also working with Residence Life to implement a section in the Don training and script about gender-neutral washrooms.

“This campaign will only be successful if it’s recurring,” Dahanayake wrote. “[T]he idea is, as years go by, all students at Queen’s would have had the same education on menstruation, creating a more empathetic and understanding culture on campus towards those who menstruate.”

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