And that’s on period! WSU expands free menstrual products

Weber State University students may have noticed an increase in the availability of free menstrual products around campus. This is due to efforts from the Scientistas Student Club, in partnership with Aunt Flow.

The Scientistas Student Club is part of a national organization of women who “empower pre-professional women in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEM),” according to their webpage.

As part of empowering women, the club aims to make menstrual products more readily available to not only STEM students, but to all students on campus, which will also help to destigmatize menstruation.

The Scientistas partnered with Aunt Flow, a women-owned brand that creates free menstrual product dispensers that dispense organic cotton pads and tampons. Previously, WSU’s campus had pay vending machines for menstrual products in their bathrooms, which were often not used or not stocked.

“There’s been so many times that I’ve had to use toilet paper because I didn’t have a pad or tampon, so I’m so glad Weber has those dispensers in the bathrooms. I’ve definitely used them more than once,” WSU student Lauren Grover said.

Not only are period products available in the WSU bathrooms, but a more diverse range of menstrual products are available in WSU’s Women’s Center, including pads, tampons and even menstrual cups.

Having these products available for free to students in need has also helped to fight period poverty. Period poverty is defined by the United Nations Population Fund as “the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due the financial burden posed by menstrual supplies.”

According to the Alliance for Period Supplies, one in eight women, or 767,397 women in the state of Utah, are below the Federal Poverty Line as of 2020. Though programs like WIC, which 12,650 women in the State of Utah use, can help these women in poverty, they do not cover menstrual products and individuals are forced to buy them out of pocket.

Utah has made efforts to help with purchasing menstrual products in the past, though. In 2019, the state passed a bill which would get rid of the sales tax on menstrual products as part of a tax reform bill. However, the bill was later repealed after public outcry against the raise in grocery prices.

Similarly, CVS pharmacy decided in October 2022 to absorb the tax on menstrual products in the state of Utah in order to make those products more affordable for residents.

On March 2, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced that period products will be available in Utah state government buildings in partnership with The Policy Project, which also aims to increase the availability of period products anywhere and everywhere.

Accessible and affordable menstrual products help those facing period poverty to attend school while on their menstrual period. According to Aunt Flow’s website, offering free period products increases school attendance by 2.4%.

WSU’s Scientistas Student Club has worked to increase the availability of menstrual products in order to help student success on campus and to create better and more opportunities for women, not only in STEM, but in any pathway at WSU.

Both the Scientistas and Aunt Flow are committed to making menstrual products on campus easily accessible to all.

“We take menstrual equity very seriously, and this includes creating a safe space for all people with periods, no matter their gender identity,” the Aunt Flow website states. “Also, our free-vend dispensers are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, making period products accessible to everyone regardless of ability or language. Providing free period products with all of this in mind is a small, but meaningful step to help change the world.”

The State of Utah, WSU, CVS, Aunt Flow and the Scientistas have increased their focus on the accessibility of menstrual products throughout the state of Utah.

The Scientistas are working to build up other women in all walks of life at WSU, whether student, staff, faculty or just a visitor. The implementation of free period products throughout campus bathrooms has created more opportunities for those on campus who may be facing period poverty, or who may have just been unprepared for the surprises of the day.

“I think this is a step in the right direction to end the stigma against periods and to help with period poverty,” WSU student Emily Coleman said. “I think it could help a lot of people.”