Algonquin College’s Free the Tampon campaign: The importance of menstrual products being free and available on campus
By Avreet Jagdev
Algonquin College launched their “Free the Tampon” campaign a couple years ago. In a video they published to YouTube, they shared that the average person spends eighteen thousand dollars on menstrual products in their lifetime, which is why “it’s time to free the tampon”. The college has made menstrual products freely available across their campus, listing ten locations where tampons and pads are freely available to anyone who might need them.
In addition to providing an increase in access to menstrual products such as pads and tampons, the free the tampon campaign aims to spark a “campus-wide conversation to help stop period stigma”. Period stigma is a term for the discrimination faced by women, trans and genderqueer who menstruate. It not only leads to a lack of access to menstrual supplies such as pads or tampons, but also includes the verbal and systemic shaming of menstruating people, and results in a lower overall quality of life for those who are impacted by it. The impacts of period stigma are disproportionately felt by those in developing countries, and those of lower socio-economic status.
Algonquin College’s “Free the Tampon” campaign is a great step towards combating period stigma on campus, through the increase of access and opening up a conversation surrounding menstruation. Other post-secondary institutions, including the University of Toronto and University of Victoria, have taken similar initiatives to make menstrual products free and available to its students and community members. The University of Victoria acknowledges that lack of access to menstrual products can cause students to miss classes, or other academic and extracurricular activities. Like Algonquin College, UofT also aims to address menstrual through their free menstruation products initiative.
Sandy Welsh, UofT’s vice-provost of students explains that access to menstrual products is an issue of equity. In addition to providing convenience, free menstrual products help reduce financial barriers, and alleviate the anxiety of being in need of a menstrual product when they aren’t freely available.
The statistics reveal shocking numbers about menstrual access in Canada: 63 per cent of people who menstruate have had concerns about not being able to access menstrual products, and 34 per cent have faced budget and affordability issues regarding menstrual products. This is why Algonquin College, and many other schools across the country, have begun taking action to increase access to pads and tampons.
Although progress is definitely being made, period stigma and in-access to menstrual products remains a huge issue in Canada, as well as globally. Initiatives such as free tampons and pads on post-secondary campuses are an important step in the right direction. They help tackle period stigma by openly talking about the issue, instead of upholding the narrative that menstruation is a private matter that should be left undiscussed. In addition, the access to period products helps make post-secondary campuses more equitable and inclusive spaces by ensuring people who menstruate don’t have to deal with barriers to accessing the products they need.
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