University tackles period poverty by post

A university is to expand its provision of free sanitary products to its online learners as far afield as Tanzania and New Zealand to help tackle period poverty.

The University of Dundee will also make free sanitary products available in male toilets on campus and offer packs to all learners heading home for the summer.

The institution said that its 3,448 online learners in 180 countries will be eligible to receive the products through the post.

One of the online learning students who would benefit from the plan is Samira Ali, 27, from Maiduguri, Nigeria, who is studying for an MSc in Infection Prevention and Control.

She said: “I’m proud that the University of Dundee’s initiative reaches as far away as my home in north-east Nigeria.

“It will help break the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation and the distress that a lot of women go through.

“It will make a huge improvement to my life and other students studying from afar.”

The university said its “trailblazing tradition of tackling period poverty” began in 2016, when its students successfully lobbied for the removal of the tampon tax across campus.

Between September 2018 and February 2019, the University of Dundee distributed 99,684 free products to its students.

The 100% organic cotton products will now be made available free in male toilets for men to pick up for their loved ones whilst ensuring that persons who use male toilets but have functioning uteri are also cared for.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who has lodged a bill at Holyrood to enable all women in Scotland to have access to free sanitary products, welcomed the initiative.

She said: “Access to period products should be a right regardless of income, no one should ever have to face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period.

“The University of Dundee has taken steps to consider the wellbeing of all their students in Scotland and beyond, and the fact that they have distributed almost 100,000 products is further evidence that a universally accessible opt-in system is necessary – which is what my Bill will achieve if passed into law.”

The university first provided free sanitary products to its students in December 2017.

Nine months later, the institution said it became the first pilot university to offer free products to all its students after the Scottish Government dedicated £5.4 million to tackling period poverty for all students and school pupils in Scotland.

Sharon Sweeney, student funding officer at the university – who has led the period poverty pilot, said: “Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the lecture theatre and neither should the support our students receive.

“Our duty of care extends to all those we teach wherever they are in the world and it also covers anyone visiting campus to learn.”

She added: “Anyone from the local community who uses our spaces to learn, and our staff who might also experience period poverty, should feel safe in the knowledge that our sanitary products are free for them too

A scheme offering free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities was introduced last August, with the Scottish Government increasing funding to £4 million in January to extend provision in libraries, leisure centres and other public buildings.