Clark Students are Ready for Menstrual Equity. Period.

Reem Abouchleih, Scarlet Staff

In recent years, there has been a growing conversation surrounding menstruation and periods. There have been countless “Period Pride” marches, which aim to raise awareness that menstruation is not shameful, and a plethora of YouTube videos showing the struggles that homeless women go through to find feminine hygiene products.

On November 16, a petition was sent to Clark students about the Menstrual Equity Initiative. The petition encouraged the Clark administration to provide tampons and pads for those who menstruate. Since then, nearly 1,700 people have signed the petition in solidarity.

Menstrual Equity Initiative activist and student council treasurer, Ivette Mendoza, spoke with the Scarlet about the process of getting sanitary products in student halls and dormitories, the future of menstrual equity, and the importance of hygiene products.

Where did the Menstrual Equity Initiative come from?

When asked where the Menstrual Equity Initiative came from, Mendoza said that the “Menstrual Equity Initiative started in my sophomore year, when I was a Maywood representative on the  Student Council.”

“It started with me being in one of the common spaces and noticing there were only condoms, and I was like, ‘Maybe I should ask my suitemates if we should have a dispenser of tampons.’ They said ‘yeah, cool,’” Mendoza recalled. “I got a PCF to make little care packages that had wipes, chocolates, tampons, pads, and condoms. I gave them out in the fall of 2018 and it went really well so I did it again where students came to me.”

Mendoza said that she had noticed that many other colleges in Massachusetts provide menstrual products, and wondered why Clark did not, considering it has the funding to do so. 

Mendoza expressed her motivation in continuing the project: “I got a bunch of people behind me to help me do this. We’re trying to promote what it means to menstruate, and also, break stereotypes of people who menstruate aren’t always female. [Having a period] is expensive. Being a college student on top of that or being self-supportive is expensive. Maybe you’re international or don’t have a job. I think students should have accessibility regardless of socio-economic status.”

Mendoza clearly explained the principles behind the initiative, but she also described the step-by-step process of putting this idea into practice.

“Currently, we have a pilot program being launched. Originally, it was supposed to be implemented in all the dorms, the AC, the UC, and Dolan. With compromise, we have finally come down to starting smaller so it’s funded well, and also to see stats and numbers and whether we should expand [later] or not,” she said. 

She explained that there will be a dispenser in the Johnson-Stanford Residence Center, two in the University Commons, and one in Bullock Residence Hall. The dispensers will include a compartment for pads and compartment for tampons, and are planned to be installed over winter break. They will be refilled throughout the semester by a student committee. 

Mendoza’s team of menstrual advocates hopes to see dispensers in all the dorms by 2020. In September, they submitted a request to Student Council for $2,750 to fund the project.

The menstrual cabinet, consisting of ten students (some Student Council representatives and some not), has faced considerable challenges. Most notably, being taken seriously by the Clark administration. However, Mendoza says that the Clark administration took it more seriously after 1,700 people signed the petition.

Additionally, there have been some difficulties over logistics and communications. “A lot of the time, we have a deadline in mind, and [the administration] has a deadline in mind, and we are not on the same page. That’s also why there was a three-month roadblock, and I was not happy with that,” Mendoza said.

The menstrual cabinet is working with Aunt Flow, a non-profit that supplies organic hygiene products at an affordable cost.

For now, Student Council and the menstrual cabinet cannot determine the cost of all of the sanitary products until the pilot program is launched. After the pilot, they will determine how much students are using it, the quantity for the upcoming semesters, and the cost.

Currently, the menstrual cabinet has finalized the locations of the dispensers in conjunction with planning, advertising, and the launch week. The number of dispensers being used is finalized, the number of tampons and pads is finalized, and the shipment is on its way to Clark.

Follow @ClarkMenstrualEquity on Instagram to support Clark students who need these essential products!