Arts & Entertainment Editor: Kamryn Kobel
On Wednesday, February 1st, UMass Dartmouth unveiled the first free menstrual product dispenser on campus.
As of Wednesday, there are now free menstrual product dispensers in all eleven men’s, women’s, and gender-neutral bathrooms in the Campus Center.
The machines come from Aunt Flow, a woman-owned business that uses 100% organic, sustainable materials in their pads and tampons.
However, this is only the beginning; Parker and Burns hope to expand the project to the academic buildings, the library, the resident halls, and the dining hall.
Parker says the idea for the program came from the New Bedford YWCA, which has a similar program, and from the I AM Bill. The I AM Bill is legislation that “would ensure access to free menstrual products to all menstruating individuals in prisons, homeless shelters, and public schools,” according to the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition. There are also hopes that the bill will expand to include higher education, including UMassD.
The SGA currently funds the Menstrual Access Pilot Program, but Parker and Burns hope that as the program expands, it will be funded by Facilities.
The machines are inexpensive to install and maintain, and Aunt Flow sends its own employees to restock the machines when needed. Thus, the responsibility does not fall on the UMassD custodial staff.
Burns, chair of the UMass Dartmouth DEI Committee, brought SGA and CWGS together to make the project a reality.
“I was the liaison between CWGS and SGA on the project. The DEI Committee as a whole played a big role as we worked as a team to get things done, such as meeting with the necessary offices of facilities. And SGA as a whole played a big role as well, as we agreed to fund the pilot project and worked with CWGS,” says Burns.
Burns noted how great it was to get students and administration to partner up on this pilot program. “It was a big opportunity for me as the chair.”
The Menstrual Access Pilot Program is an essential step toward destigmatizing menstruation. Providing free pads and tampons in all bathrooms, both male and female, helps normalize periods and the need for period products.
Parker says, “talking about periods is still taboo. It’s a shameful thing. We have to destigmatize it. Everyone who has a uterus bleeds – it’s normal.”
And providing free menstrual products is part of the destigmatization– including the normalization of transgender periods. That’s why the project is for “menstruation,” not “women,” as Parker notes because women are not the only people who require period products.
“It’s something we use like toilet paper. It’s not taboo,” says Burns.
The project has been met with great support. CWGS and SGA held a ribbon-cutting celebration outside of the Campus Center bathroom. As Parker and Burns spoke briefly and the ribbon was cut, there were cheers of joy and encouragement from the crowd. Once the door was opened, students lined up to see the machine for themselves.
Expanding this project to the other buildings on campus would be a massive step towards making UMassD as inclusive as possible. Not only that, but these free dispensers provide the necessary hygiene products that our students need.
To support the Menstrual Access Pilot Program, you can email Juli Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can compile data that will help them expand the project here at UMassD.
To learn more about how to support the I AM bill, you can visit this website.