This February, the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Help Centre continues to reach out to students with a pilot project in which they place a basket of tampons and sanitary napkins in bathrooms that will benefit students in times of need.
FMP3, also known as the Free Menstrual Products Pilot Project, was launched on Feb. 1 by Crystal Lau, co-ordinator of the Help Centre, and other Centre volunteers. Lau got the idea for the project when USSU centre co-ordinators Kenny Starling of the Pride Centre and Ashley Clouthier of the Women’s Centre shared that Brown University in Rhode Island, U.S., started the same project in 2016.
This year, Lau has kickstarted many new programs at the Help Centre, including resumé and financial workshops, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and first aid training. She believes that the Centre can reach out to more students by putting on more events, workshops and projects.
“A particular reason for this particular project is because I know the struggle. I know these items are necessary, not a luxury. [I know] women … have to pay extra for [these products]. If we’re providing free stuff here [at the Help Centre], and not a lot of people know about it, why won’t we push it further? [Why don’t we try] to reach out to them, instead of [them] reaching out to us?” Lau said.
The free menstrual products can be found in the eight bathrooms owned by the USSU, those in Place Riel and the Memorial Union Building. Although Lau hopes that products can be free in all campus bathrooms, the Centre currently does not have the capacity.
“I want to bring this to a full-on university [level] but I know we don’t have the budget and the storage space. I’m not in a high enough position to have that power to make that work just yet, so I thought I can do it with the USSU buildings,” Lau said.
Because the project is just beginning, Lau cannot guarantee that the baskets in each bathroom will be full everyday. However, Help Centre volunteers will refill each basket every Monday and Thursday. If there is a shortage of these menstrual products, students can always visit the Help Centre or the Women’s Centre, located in room 105 and 103 in the MUB, respectively.
“We are in the planning stages … I’ve talked to the company that’s giving us these products … made sure that we can get enough products to start and to sustain for the rest of the year at least,” Lau said.
Funding for the products is provided by UM Marketing, a company based in Vancouver that focuses on cultivating capabilities and resources that enhance consumers’ personal experiences with the products and services offered by their clients.
Since FMP3 is a pilot project, the menstrual products can only be found in women’s and gender neutral bathrooms, unlike at Brown University where free tampons can be found in every bathroom, even in the men’s.
“The reason that we aren’t putting it in the male’s bathrooms right now is because we do have the limit of products … Anyone can go to gender neutral bathrooms and anyone can go to the Help Centre or the Women’s Centre to get these products if they need. So, it’s not discrimination towards the male bathrooms, but it just works with the logistics,” Lau said.
Lau also plans to send out surveys to students to ask if they have heard about FMP3, if they’ve used the products and if they have an overall opinion about the project. She hopes that FMP3 will be successful and that it will become a university-wide project in coming years.
“If people have any suggestions or concerns, questions about this, they can email me at the Help Centre. If the pilot project is successful, we can contact other departments to start promoting this initiative.”
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor