“In order to have a fully equitable and participatory society, we must have laws and policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and affordable for everyone who needs them. The ability to access these items affects a person’s freedom to work, study, stay healthy, and engage in the world with basic dignity. And if anyone’s access is compromised, whether by poverty or stigma or lack of education and resources, it is in our societal interest to ensure those needs are met.” (Weiss-Wolf, 2017)
The Period Agenda (TPA) is a student organization focused on the subject of period poverty, menstrual equity, and educating the campus community on all subjects menstrual related. Part of this includes TPA putting together period product packs to give to Worcester Women’s shelters. Another area they have recently tackled is providing free menstrual products to the Worcester community. This initiative began with an announcement in September 2021 that free menstrual product dispensers would be made available at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) – in 21 Women’s and 3 Gender Inclusive restrooms across 16 campus buildings. With students receiving community service hours to track the usage of these products, it was clear an increase in access to menstrual hygiene products was necessary to our community.
In the Spring of 2022, both TPA and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) were approached by various community members describing incidents of not feeling comfortable disposing of a menstrual hygiene product when using a male restroom. Knowing there are members of our community who utilize the male restroom and still have a menstrual cycle, TPA and ODIME combined forces to aid in access, visibility, and education around menstruation across all genders.
Both providing free menstrual hygiene products and supplying these products in a variety of spaces, including restrooms regardless of gender assignment, aligns directly with TPA’s initiatives for menstrual equity and ODIME’s mission “to foster an inclusive campus community which respects, honors, and celebrates diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in all of its dimensions”.
“The multidimensional aspects of gender affirming care suggests the need to reconsider domains of health beyond healthcare settings…Menstruation has long been considered an important aspect of sexual and reproductive health for cisgender women, however scant literature has examined the attitudes and experiences of [Assigned Female At Birth] AFAB trans[gender] and non-binary people towards menstruation and its management.” (Lane et al., 2021)
After purchasing products and distributing them across restrooms and departments, WPI now has free menstrual products in nine (9) Male restrooms across nine (9) campus buildings and in nine (9) staff departments across campus. This initiative not only meets WPI’s Lead with Purpose Strategic Plan 2021-2026 to “enhance the outcomes and experience of minoritized and underrepresented student populations at WPI”, but allows members of our community not have to worry about a basic bodily function and their safety when trying to exist on our campus.
ODIME is honored to have worked with The Period Agenda to help them increase their access and visibility on campus. If you are interested in combating period poverty, advocating for menstrual equity, and educating your community on the often taboo topic of menstruating, then you should connect with The Period Agenda at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow them on Instagram @ThePeriodAgenda.
If you would like to have free menstrual hygiene products in your department, please submit an ODIME Request Form and select 'Menstrual Hygiene Product Request' by clicking here.
If you would like to provide suggestions on locations where you would like to see these products places or if you have any specific questions, comments, concerns, suggestions, or feedback please email Mia-Kay Fuller (they/them) at email@example.com.
Learn more about menstrual equity here: ACLU: The Unequal Price of Periods
The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) promotes and oversees all student facing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) learning experiences, programs, services, trainings, and initiatives for WPI.