Sunday, August 9, 2020

Students working to improve menstrual product accessibility across campus

November 30, 2018
A student walks into Olin Health Center on Oct. 23, 2017. Olin is offering flu shots this fue season.
A student walks into Olin Health Center on Oct. 23, 2017. Olin is offering flu shots this fue season. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Forget a tampon or pad before class? A new program aims to provide menstrual hygiene products to students at various locations across MSU’s campus, so that doesn't happen.

MSU's chapter of PERIOD. works to end stigmas surrounding conversations about periods and make safe menstrual products more accessible to students.  

Nine locations across campus — including the MSU Library, Student Services and the Biomedical Physical Sciences Building — have free menstrual products stocked at the front desk. They're available to any student upon request.

President of MSU's chapter of PERIOD., Nama Naseem, first learned about PERIOD. on a national level through a friend.

“Wayne State has a PERIOD. chapter and I found out about it back in May," Naseem said. "I thought it was really interesting because distributing menstrual products isn’t something that is often talked about. It’s like this hidden thing that’s a necessity.”

After the initial spark, Naseem took her interest and molded it into an organization on campus. PERIOD. is a pilot program that currently receives partial funding from MSU. If the organization continues to grow and make an impact, they could potentially receive additional funding. 

The organization works with other student service organizations on campus — like Planned Parenthood Generation Action and service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega — to collect donations and fundraise for menstrual products. Students and members of the community can donate physical products or give cash donations. 

“PERIOD. is helping. Through our fundraising and our donation drives, we can provide products and PERIOD. as a national organization gets discounts with distributors and suppliers. So we’re able to make just $2 cover one period cycle, which is nine tampons and six pads," Naseem said. 

Initiatives can start as simply as putting a basket of products out in public spaces to gauge student demand. Next steps involve contacting administration to propose an allotment of the budget to go towards the new organization.

“In Wells, the dispensers are free, and there are different centers across campus including the library where you can just go to the front desk," Naseem said. "A lot of the products are coming from donations."

In addition to collecting and providing products to those in need, PERIOD. is striving to educate menstruators and non-menstruators on health and sustainability of their initiative on campus and in state policy.  

“Workshops are targeted towards younger students or anyone in the community that would benefit from learning about period health or understanding the stigmas surrounding periods," Naseem said. "There’s also a workshop on sustainable periods because we use disposable products, which are good for the environment."

Next semester, PERIOD. hopes to start these workshops in local schools or on campus.

Before PERIOD. was established, civil engineering junior Emily Estrada started working towards her own menstrual product initiative, seeking assistance from students and campus administration. Since joining forces, both Naseem and Estrada benefit from each other’s available resources.

“Last summer Nama reached out to me and explained what PERIOD. was and how their mission statement was in line with what I was trying to do. Ever since then, we’ve been working pretty closely together,” Estrada said. “Our goal is really that anywhere at MSU that has toilet paper, menstrual products will also be available. The desk locations are a step towards that.”

Estrada also hopes to initiate collaboration with the MSU Residence Hall Association to try and get products into residence halls and in more public spaces.

Naseem and PERIOD. are also planning to give product packs back to the community in addition to on-campus locations.

“We’re giving all our packs to the mosque in East Lansing," Naseem said. "They have a center where refugees can go to pick up donations."

Moving forward, Naseem said she wants to see PERIOD. grow into a more well-rounded organization that's known for more than just its service. They also want to continue building a sustainable member base on campus.

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