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Students push for menstrual equity on campus

The Planned Parenthood Generation Action organization is working with USG and administration for menstrual equity


"Menstrual equity means being able manage their period with dignity and have access to safe menstrual products without experiencing stigma." Illustration published on Tuesday, April 23, 2019.

The Planned Parenthood Generation Action organization on campus is working toward implementing menstrual equity on campus, from getting petitions signed to working with Undergraduate Student Government

Catherine Corbett, a senior majoring in communication and the President of PPGen said the organization will work closely with the new USG Tempe leadership and the University administration to try to promote menstrual equity — meaning affordable access to menstrual products and care for all. 

“We've been working with administration,” Corbett said. “My Vice President, Carla (Naranjo) has been doing a lot of the work with that since the Salem ticket just won for USG. One of (the Hanna Salem ticket’s) platforms was menstrual equity, so we're working not only with them but with administration as well to try and pass this.”

Corbett said it has been a struggle to get this issue on the radar, and the organization has been working on this initiative over the year. 

"We ultimately want to make (menstrual products) free, whether it be a dispenser of some sort. They are like broken in all of the bathrooms," she said “They’re never stocked or anything.”

Corbett said the organization hopes to get this accomplished by the end of the semester. 

“We've progressed a lot since the beginning of the semester and a kind of struggle at the beginning,” she said. “It was — there was a little bit of a struggle just with administration. They support our cause and they want to make this happen on campus, but all we're really hearing his words and not actions.”

Corbett said the point of menstrual equity is to not only have menstrual products affordable but also easily accessible. 

Keegan McKinney, a freshman majoring in psychology and the secretary of Planned Parenthood Generation Action organization said menstrual equity on campus is important because everyone comes from different backgrounds and some may not be able to afford hygiene products. 

"I think it's important that we kind of take into account that this is something that's necessary and it's something that's being forgotten about," she said. "And I think it's been far too long that there hasn't been any action taken. So better now than never.” 

She said she hopes that the win of the Salem campaign will make menstrual equity on campus a reality. 

Salem, a junior majoring in public service & public policy, is the president-elect of Undergraduate Student Government Tempe. Menstrual equity was one of her ticket's main issues.

Salem said she and her team are committed to enhancing the student experience and that providing free menstrual products in bathrooms will do that.

"One in five girls miss school because of their periods, and the lack of accessibility or the financial burden that these products impose on individuals affects their academic and professional performance,” Salem said in an emailed statement.

Salem said she hopes the push for menstrual equity on campus will help foster positive dialogue about menstruation “in order to de-stigmatize this concept.” 

Michelle Villegas-Gold, a violence epidemiologist and trauma specialist who works at the University, said menstrual equity is the idea that an individual should be able to manage their period with dignity and have access to safe menstrual products without experiencing stigma or socialized shaming. 

“It’s basically the idea that any woman, and that includes cisgender women as well as trans women and non binary or gender queer women who menstruate, that it's a fundamental right to be able to have access to these things,” she said. 

Villegas-Gold said she believes schools and universities are critical sites for addressing this issue. Women who don’t have access to pads and tampons are at risk of being isolated or missing school, she said. 

“There's also the basic argument that we provide toilet paper for everyone in bathrooms,” she said. “So why is it such a big stretch to provide tampons and pads as well to people if it's a basic human need and just foundational that we need to maintain our hygiene?”

Villegas-Gold said she hopes the University will take part in menstrual equity but acknowledges that the size of the school could be a major hurdle. 

“Being able to institute that across all of our campuses and for all of our students, I think would be a really big task to take on, but I do think it’s incredibly important,” she said. 

"We're trying to up our numbers because the more people who show that they're in support of this, the more we can go to the president and say, ‘this is something that people are passionate about and something that's important and you need to make your student population respect you, and also you need to show that you respect them, and the way to do that is listening to their needs and their wants,” McKinney said.

Editor's note: The University could not be reached for comment in time for publication. 

Clarification: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote in the last paragraph, it has been updated to correct this.

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