A group of students at Barrett, The Honors Collegehave collaborated on a new initiative, The Period Project, which aims to provide free feminine hygiene products in ASU bathrooms and eradicate the stigma around periods.
Pashmi Mehta, a sophomore business management and sustainability major, said she thought of the idea and approached a few of her friends who she thought would help her get the initiative started and tested at Barrett.
Mehta then went to Kira Gatewood, a program coordinator at Barrett student services to find funding for her initiative.
“I met with her and we started a petition just to show that ASU and the Barrett community had interest in this initiative,” she said. “We reached out to a few companies to see if they could donate some products, and we also made a proposal to Barrett Honors College Council for more permanent funding.”
The group originally had a goal of 500 signatures for the petition, but Mehta said it was easy to find people who thought the project was a worthwhile idea.
“We ended up getting over 600 signatures within four days, so there was obviously a lot of people who were really interested in doing it,” she said.
The Period Project also received funding from Barrett to test out the effectiveness of increased availability of feminine products on campus.
“I did a finance proposal at BRC and they gave us $275 to start a trial month of it because it’s really hard to find out the logistics of how many we would need and if people are going to steal them,” she said. “We also got funding from BHCC, and so we are going to order stuff from them.”
Mehta said the project is a step toward equality for women who may not always have immediate access to products on campus.
“If you go into the bathroom, the expectation is that you have everything that you need there,” she said. “In the other restrooms that I’ve seen, even if they do have the pay ones, a lot of the time they’re empty, broken or steal your money.”
Mehta said student reactions were overwhelmingly positive. However, she also said the group received some negative reactions from people who felt the initiative would not benefit them directly.
“Someone said to me, ‘I don’t want my Barrett fees to go up by five dollars if we’re going to do this,’” she said. “In theory if that’s how it worked — which it doesn’t — wouldn’t you want to just want to pay the extra five dollars? Because we (at Barrett) have a ton of money that could definitely go towards like something like this.”
Ciara Earl, a sophomore majoring in business law, business public service and public policy, said she joined the initiative after talking to Mehta about the negative stigma surrounding periods.
“It’s providing a platform for woman to fear empowered by their period because in our society it’s something that just happens and you just don’t say anything about it, just push it under the rug,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way because menstruation is a natural part of being a woman, being alive, being a person in general.”
Earl said this type of initiative is important because these products are both essential to the well-being of female students and are financially taxing for some.
“One round of tampons and pads, even the generic brand, can run you up $12 to $15,” she said. “Now in Barrett at least, there’s something there as a safety net.”
Earl said she hopes the initiative out of Barrett inspires others to take similar actions for equality.
“I would love students of other universities to feel inspired and take this initiative to their school as well,” she said. “It’s not just an ASU issue, not just an Arizona issue, it’s a women’s issue.”
Emma Giles, a sophomore management and Spanish major, said she got involved in the initiative because she was interested in supporting acts of equality.
Giles said living with several female roommates over the past two years opened her eyes to how much the topic of stigmas needed to be discussed among other students.
“Personally, I know the feeling of being embarrassed about talking about it,” she said. “It makes me think that this is normal, this should be talked about.”
Besides using social media to spread the word about The Period Project, Giles said she brought the idea to other organizations she is involved in.
“All my organizations are pretty into equality-based activism in any sort,” she said. “I’ve talked to the ASU Young Democrats about it, who really want to be a part of it, and they have quite a reach.”
Giles said she was not surprised by how helpful Barrett was in setting the project in motion through support and funding.
“I believe in Barrett’s mission and I like the idea that they want to be a part of student initiatives,” she said. “I’m glad it happened because if it didn’t, I would have been very disappointed in Barrett.”