Period equity project brings accessible menstrual products to McMaster

Bela Davidson
June 29, 2023
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

McMaster Okanagan Committee’s pilot project continues to work on addressing period poverty on campus, despite setbacks due to vandalism

Period poverty is defined by a lack of access to hygiene products, menstrual products and period education. In 2019 it was reported that 34 per cent of Canadian women and girls claimed to frequently make budget sacrifices in order to afford menstrual and feminine hygiene products. Period poverty is a prevalent issue that impacts individuals worldwide. It is currently being tackled on campus by the McMaster Okanagan Committee.

McMaster Okanagan is responsible for supporting initiatives that look to promote the health and wellbeing of the campus community, in line with the Okanagan Charter. McMaster Okanagan’s ongoing period equity project was launched in Jan. 2023 and it aims to reduce period poverty within the McMaster community.

Previous project support assistant Neha Dhanvanthry explained that several advocacy groups on campus, including the Student Health Education Centre and the McMaster Student Union, were interested in addressing period poverty. The period equity project was then born from this collective concern and passion for equity and accessibility.

“There were continuous meetings with different groups on campus discussing the most feasible way to carry [the project] out. It was all done acknowledging that menstrual products shouldn’t be a luxury. They are necessities and providing them really helps to support students and staff with their wellbeing while they’re getting their education or working,” said Dhanvanthry.

There were continuous meetings with different groups on campus discussing the most feasible way to carry [the project] out. It was all done acknowledging that menstrual products shouldn’t be a luxury. They are necessities and providing them really helps to support students and staff with their wellbeing while they’re getting their education or working.

Neha Dhanvanthry, previous project support assistant, McMaster Okanagan period equity project

The period equity project team has now set up free has situated menstrual product stations in select washrooms on McMaster main campus, including the Student Wellness Centre, residence buildings and the Health Science Library. menstrual product stations in select washrooms on the main campus, including in the McMaster University Student Centre, Mills Memorial Library and the Health Science Library.

McMaster Okanagan administrator Lynn Armstrong explained that so far the project has received mostly positive feedback. However, there have been recent incidents of vandalism at the menstrual product stations in men’s washrooms that have temporarily thrown the initiative off-course.

The vandalism has resulted in thou- sands of dollars of plumbing repair costs due to products being mass flushed down toilets as well as the McMaster Okanagan team temporarily de-installing these stations to address the damages.

Armstrong explained that some of the vandalism incidents have also involved hateful sentiments against the transgender community.

“We like to believe it’s a naive thing, but it could be anti-woman, anti-trans messaging. We are trying to do more educational campaigns about why this [project] isn’t just about any one group and that not just women bleed . . . It was important to us to make sure [menstrual products] were accessible for everybody," said Armstrong.

The need for accessible menstrual products spans far beyond cisgendered women, including trans individuals and those who might be collecting products for their mothers, siblings or friends in need. The period equity project aims to support all individuals under this umbrella and make products and education accessible no matter your identity.

The decision to temporarily retract the stations from men’s washrooms was difficult and saddening, but Armstrong reaffirmed that this is only meant to be a temporary change. She explained that it is important for members of the community to know that they have not given up on their original vision. The project intends on regrouping and returning to men’s washrooms in a more protective format.

“We don’t want them to think that people who choose hate can change that narrative. We want the project to be for everybody and we want it to be about love and about caring for each other. So, there’s a temporary setback, but we will figure out a way to make this work,” said Armstrong.

We don’t want them to think that people who choose hate can change that narrative. We want the project to be for everybody and we want it to be about love and about caring for each other. So, there’s a temporary setback, but we will figure out a way to make this work.

Lynn Armstrong, administrator, McMaster Okanagan

When asked about the future of this initiative, Armstrong explained that this is just the beginning of the journey towards accessible menstrual education and resources.

Armstrong explained that since the initiative is currently in its pilot stage, feedback and insight from the community on which bathrooms to target next and how to expand their project is extremely meaningful.

The Okanagan team intends on continuing this work into the next academic year and expanding their reach across more washrooms on campus.

“You know, we don’t ask people to bring their toilet paper. It’s 2023, you know? It’s time. We’re long overdue,” said Armstrong.

Subscribe to our Mailing List

© 2024 The Silhouette. All Rights Reserved. McMaster University's Student Newspaper.
magnifiercrossmenuarrow-right