By Thea Gribilas
Menstrual product dispensers will be installed in all washrooms in the Student Campus Centre (SCC) following a motion passed at the last Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Board of Directors meeting to make menstrual products free and accessible on campus.
Dispensers are expected to be installed in all washrooms in the SCC, including the gender-neutral washrooms.
“We’re hoping these dispensers would be installed and ready for students to use once the campus reopens,” said Vaishali Vinayak, vice-president equity at the RSU. “We’ll do thorough research into different types of dispensers of menstrual products that will be hygienic and safe for students to be used.”
According to Vinayak, the RSU will be looking for the Palin Foundation—the administrative body at Ryerson responsible for maintaining the SCC facilities—to fully fund the campaign in the SCC.
Ted Rogers School of Management director and equity commissioner Homra Ghaznavi was responsible for the introduction of the motion. If the campaign is successful, the RSU will be lobbying the university to introduce the program across campus.
“I am incredibly happy knowing this service is available for free on campus,” said Andrea Bougiouklis, a second-year creative industries student. “This will help a lot of people, probably in more ways than one. Having this option is something all institutions should strive for.”
“I think that it makes a lot of sense for a necessary product to be available [for students] whenever they might need it.”
According to a 2019 Plan International Canada research study, one-third of the over 2,000 women under the age of 25 surveyed said they were not able to afford menstrual products.
“Having this option is something all institutions should strive for”
“Period poverty is a hidden type of poverty that has serious impacts on students’ lives and it impacts one’s education as well,” said Vinayak. “The RSU advocates for free and accessible menstrual products for all students who menstruate and this initiative will help students in need.”
In February 2020, the Ace Your Exams & Eliminate Period Poverty campaign coordinated by Ryerson’s Center for Safer Sex & Sexual Violence Support (C3SVS) was cancelled due to a lack of funding.
This came after the termination of the agreement between the RSU and Ryerson University in January 2020 and Ryerson’s subsequent decision to withhold the fees they collect from students for the RSU.
The C3SVS is run and funded by the RSU. They provide Ryerson students with the support necessary for preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence in the Ryerson community.
The program was intended to provide students with free and accessible menstrual products during exam season.
“The intentions behind the C3SVS’s Eliminate Period Poverty & Ace Your Exams campaign was to eventually lobby the university to reinstate the availability of menstrual products across campus,” said Sydney Bothwell, manager of the C3SVS.
“Having the RSU Board of Directors support a motion such as this is a good first step.”
In January 2019, The Eyeopener reported that sanitary napkin dispensers across campus were empty and the university was not planning to restock them.
The Eye visited 102 washrooms in 14 buildings on campus and found that 71 had no dispensers, while 31 had an empty dispenser that still advertised prices ranging from 10 cents to one dollar.
It was also found that in the 16 all-gender washrooms on campus, only one had a dispenser and it was empty. There were no signs on any of the dispensers indicating that they were empty.
“The Ryerson community has shown us that a project like this could have a substantial impact on their lives and on their education,” said Bothwell. “The success of this campaign will depend on the ongoing support of the RSU and its Board of Directors put behind this campaign.”