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A quick call with Ella Picavet on affordable period products

Many will add them to their shopping list without a second thought, but what if you don't have enough money to buy period products each month? The university has recently started providing packs of affordable sanitary pads and tampons in the SchoolSupply vending machines. ‘It's just like providing toilet paper,’ says master's student Ella Picavet from the University Council.

Hi Ella, can you tell us why this campaign was necessary?

‘There are many people at our university who need period products but don’t have enough money to buy them each month. It is far from ideal because students come to classes feeling uncomfortable or stay at home and miss them completely. Our university community had wanted to do something about this for years but there hadn’t yet been a university pilot. So I took it up with the Diversity and Inclusion Expertise Office in my role on the University Council.’

How long did the project take?

‘It may seem like a simple change but the Diversity Officer and lots of staff from the University Services Department and the Faculty of Humanities operations team have been working hard on this for a year. The questions that arose included: Who will supply the products? How will we fund them? And of course: How will we provide them? One question that I never heard, by the way, is: Why should we do this? The vast majority immediately saw the value of it. That says something about where we stand as a community.’

Do you feel that period poverty is a taboo at our university?

‘I think that we have come far because a huge group thinks it’s a really normal subject. But if there was no taboo at all, this pilot may have come about even sooner. I hope this campaign will help make it even more of an everyday subject because it should be the most normal thing in the world to sound the alarm if you don’t have access to period products. The ideal solution would be national legislation on this but until then this is how we as a university can make our teaching even more inclusive and accessible. Because it’s really just like providing toilet paper.’

What do the period products cost and where can you find them?

‘You can get the products from the SchoolSupply vending machines in the teaching buildings in Leiden and The Hague. The number of machines has recently been increased to make the products even more widely available. A pack of sanitary pads or tampons costs 50 cents and the machines accept contactless payments. I hope that we will eventually be able to offer the products for free in the toilets. That would be the most accessible solution. But then we want to get it right the first time in the most frequently used women’s and all-gender toilets – and there are quite a few of them. So for now this is a big step in the right direction. We are going to evaluate the project next spring and will look at what can be improved.’

Are you open to feedback?

Definitely! We’d love to hear what the people who are going to use these products think. Feel free to email Diversity Officer Aya Ezawa at diversiteit@leidenuniv.nl.

A quick call with

There’s a lot happening at Leiden University. The websites fill with news on a daily basis. In ‘A quick call with’, we ask a member of staff to tell us more about a relevant and topical subject.

Text: Evelien Flink
Banner: Natracare via Unsplash

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