Tackling the Sanitary Stigma

YUSU and Halifax College are taking steps to address the issue of period poverty at the University. Mia Shantana Chaudhuri-Julyan, YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer, announced a new partnership with The Red Box Project on 15 January.

The Red Box Project is an organisation that works to help students that may not be able to afford sanitary products, preventing their educations from being affected as a result. Educational institutions that sign up with Red Box receive a free box containing sanitary items donated by members of the community. The box is available to pupils in the school of university who, upon request, receive a prepared brown paper bag with the necessary sanitary items.

The Red Box Project began as a crowdfunding initiative. Their early online posts stated the desire to help people that experience periods avoid “anxious embarrassment” and not have to miss lessons or stay at home just because it is their time of the month. They have the aim to prove that periods are perfectly normal and there should be no reason for them to get in the way of anybody’s education. The Red Box Project believe that their work is made up of “a simple scheme, made with love [for those that experience periods] in our community”.

The Student Union’s alliance with the Red Box Project has resulted in the project providing free supplies for people who cannot afford it themselves at the University of York. Sanitary items were available as of Monday Week 2 (January 15) at the YUSU offices in James College. People can collect packages from the Helpdesk at the Student Centre. YUSU is also encouraging students who are able to make donations of their own to do so in the same location.

Mia Shantana Chaudhuri-Julyan’s alliance with Red Box is one that she believes will help students in their day-to-day life. Period poverty is an issue that has achieved increased awareness within the last year.

The charity group Plan International found that 1 in 10 girls or women aged between 14 and 21 in the UK were being affected. As a result, they believed that many of those affected would skip school or work in order to avoid struggling in public or they would use unhygienic alternatives, such as tissues.

Meanwhile, the Halifax College Student Association (HCSA) is already providing cheaper sanitary products to its residents. They are selling items at a lower price, with Tampax Tampons for £2 and Always Ultra Pads for £1.50. The low-priced sanitary products have been brought in bulk and sold to the students for zero profit.

James Mortimer, the HCSA Vice President for Wellbeing and Liberation, believes that if this new scheme is successful it can be expanded to sell a broader variety of sanitary products. He told Nouse that “If this scheme is successful we hope to expand it to sell a greater variety of sanitary products so we can really combat period poverty, and the stigma surrounding periods, together as a college”.

Menstrual cycles have repeatedly been an issue at the University, with residents living in Halifax having previously been provided with just one sanitary bin for a house of approximately ten people. Most recently, Nouse received reports that gender neutral toilets in the new Piazza Building on Heslington East have not contained the necessary provision of sanitary bins upon opening.

Although this has now been rectified, Mia commented on this issue: “Access to sanitary facilities and products is a necessity, not a luxury. YUSU is committed to this ethos and is, for example, working proactively in this area to ensure that students have access to sanitary products for free. These can be picked up from our help desk, where we are also asking individuals to donate at the same location in order to sustain this project. I would encourage any complainants regarding a lack of sanitary bins to report the issue to the relevant University service and seek advice if necessary”.

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