Many students, faculty and staff on our campus menstruate, making access to safe menstrual products and trusted resources crucial to be able to study, work and fully participate in campus life.
The Menstrual Equity project at UWaterloo is a collaboration between the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Office (EDIR-O) and Plant Operations, and has been made possible by the sustained advocacy and work of the Women’s Centre. The project uses a multifaceted approach to enhance the accessibility of resources and support to all people who menstruate.
With educational opportunities that include ongoing lunch and learn sessions and workshops, the focus of the summer was on equipping 129 gendered and all gender washrooms across campus with free menstrual products.
We recognize that often conversations on menstruation solely centre women – and while many women do menstruate – menstruation is not exclusive to any one gender identity. As such the pilot includes a variety of women’s, all gender, and men’s washrooms, recognizing that the University’s goal is to provide products to whoever needs access to them in safe, accessible ways that protect the dignity of the person accessing them.
We are grateful to the numerous other individual advocates and groups who have contributed to this important project including, but not exhaustively, the Women’s Centre, the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA), the Graduate Student Association (GSA), the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Health, the Faculty of Math, the School of Pharmacy, Health Promotion, Athletics, and the Office of Advancement.
Why is Menstrual Equity important?
Menstrual equity promotes health and wellbeing. Without access to safe menstrual products, people who menstruate may resort to using unsafe materials to manage their periods. Lack of access to menstrual products can also lead to missed school or work, social exclusion, and compromised health.
Menstrual equity helps to break down these stigmas about menstruation. Menstruation is often stigmatized, which can lead to shame and embarrassment for people who menstruate. Period stigma and a lack of education about menstruation can prevent people who menstruate from accessing products or participating in normal activities during their period. This can have long-lasting negative effects on their education, health, and overall well-being.
Menstrual equity can be a crucial element of gender equity work – as we aim to make our campus safer for all gender identities.
Part of menstrual equity work is promoting a broader awareness of the spectrum of people who have periods and the systems of oppression that can impact access to menstrual products.
This includes considering the impacts of the intersections of race, class, ability (etc.) on the menstrual equity work we do, and creating space for those who are often left out of the conversation about menstruation – including campus community members who are Two-Spirit, trans men, non-binary, gender non-conforming and gender fluid.
Existing stigma around menstruation is often exacerbated by sexism, but also by transphobia and cis-normativity, and so the work of menstrual equity involves the promotion of a deeper understanding of menstruation with the aim of reducing stigma on all who menstruate.
Menstrual equity ensures that people who menstruate have access to menstrual products. Safe menstrual products are often unaffordable for low-income individuals. Menstruation is not a choice, and people who menstruate should not be financially penalized for a natural bodily function.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find menstrual products?
The list above includes all the washrooms on campus which will have free pads and tampons. Please check back for updated locations.
There are also a variety of locations on campus outside of washrooms that continue to provide menstrual products when stocked, including The Women’s Centre.
Is there a cost to the products?
No, there is no cost to using these products.
Why are there products in men’s washrooms?
We want to ensure that anyone who menstruates can access products when they need them, which includes people who use the men’s washrooms. If you do not use these products, you can just leave them undisturbed.
What should I do if I notice a dispenser is damaged?
If you notice one of the menstrual dispensers is damaged, please email email@example.com. You will need to provide the building and room number in the subject and a specific description of the problem in the body of the email.
What should I do if a dispenser is empty?
You will see stickers on the dispensers with a QR code that links back to the washrooms that have products so you can see the next nearest washroom that contains products. Products will be restocked every night during the week.
Why is this project a pilot?
This is the first time the University has provided free menstrual products in washrooms. The purpose of the pilot is to assess demand, usage and costs to inform a longer term strategy for this initiative.
What else is part of the menstrual equity strategy?
In addition to providing free products in washrooms, the Equity Unit will be exploring options for sustainable products and will be partnering with others on campus to destigmatize menstruation and raise awareness about key issues including menstrual health and period poverty.