Free pads and tampons. Should the Groningen schools and universities offer menstrual products for free? Of course they should, says the activist group Comité Vrouwenstrijd Groningen.
Just before summer, their collecting of petition signatures started with showing the result Comité Vrouwenstrijd desired: all around Zernike campus one could find free pads and tampons in women’s bathrooms.
‘It was a reaction on a fruitless initiative at Groningen University’, says Tika, a member of this Groningen activist group. ‘The board of Groningen University had determined that the management of each institute had the right to decide how to handle this issue. These managers were given the choice whether to offer this service or not.’ Unfortunately, no notable increase in feminine hygiene products was noticed on campus.
We demand that they’d start putting the products in, since we now have proof that students need them
‘Then we decided to act ourselves’, says Tika. ‘We put free menstrual products in several school and university buildings. We did so with all the money we had on hand. Along with that we asked students and personnel to support the initiative. We have about 600 to 625 signatures thus far.’ (This being the score at the beginning of September, ed.).
Tika believes they are getting very close to where they want to be in terms of numbers. All while the next steps are already planned. ‘We will spread the petition once more soon, probably through social media. We will prepare an open letter, and offer the list of signatures to each school, and we will demand that they’d start putting the products in, as we now have proof that the students need them.’ She adds that such a meeting with RUG and Hanze UAS will take place sometime in the coming months.
How would you feel if you didn’t have any toilet paper in the wc’s, so you would have to go out and buy overpriced sheets?
Lu, a student of International Communication who studies at Zernike Campus, agrees with Tika on the need for such action. ‘We suffer a lot as women already, so having access to menstrual products on campus is more than justified. It is a basic necessity. Water, tampons, toilet paper, it should be available everywhere.’
Comparing access to menstrual products to access to toilet paper is a metaphor Tika likes to use. ‘You can ask people: how would you feel if you didn’t have any toilet paper in the toilets, so you’d have to go out and buy bits of toilet paper which would also be overpriced?’
Lu mentions the pricing as well. ‘I know what it feels like if you don’t have the products. And when you buy them, they are so expensive as well. That is even though we are already suffering during the menstrual period.’
Women have to put in a lot of effort to achieve anything
Tika stresses the importance of the petition. ‘The petition is a more promising and quicker way than a demonstration for people to show their support. It is very clear proof that this issue of free menstrual products is necessary. It also allows us to reach people on an individual level.’
Activist Tika believes in reaching the goal of Comité Vrouwenstrijd. ‘I see the finish line. This is something the municipality and the schools have control over. They can decide as a school or as an organization that they are going to do this. This is very direct, and this makes it very attractive for us to fight for.’
Lu would be very happy to sign the petition. ‘I think it is a very good idea to make a campaign out of it and to spread it to other places as well. It is important to make sure that these products will be available.’
‘Most of the issues women face are very complex’, says Tika. ‘They have to put in a lot of effort to achieve anything. In issues like this you can get the little victories, though. Something very possible for us to achieve, maybe this year. It is those little victories that we need other women to see, so they realize it is worth getting into action. Free pads and tampons may well be a stepping stone towards bigger successes in greater issues.’