Fanshawe fighting for period equity

Header image for the article Fanshawe fighting for period equity Credit: COURTESY OF LEAH MARSHALL
Students will be able to sign up online for Menstrual Mail-Out packages soon.

Fanshawe College recently joined 44 other Ontario colleges in a fight for period equity. The Toronto Youth Cabinet sent a letter to Premier Doug Ford, asking menstrual products to be offered for free in public bathrooms. When they asked Fanshawe to sign, there was no hesitation.

“Right away, we were there to sign the letter because we think it’s important,” said Fanshawe Student Union (FSU) President, Ricardo Souza. “They also presented some data that was very alarming. One third of Canadian women under the age of 25 say they are struggling to afford menstrual products. We can see that’s our responsibility to provide those products to women and transgender people in our community.”

Offering free period products isn’t new to the FSU. They have been offering those products for free in both women’s and non-gendered bathrooms since 2018. Although it’s only within the student centre building that these products are free, it is a step in the right direction.

Unlimited transactions, no monthly fees, no worries. Scotiabank.

“We consider these products a basic need for women and transgender people in the college,” said Souza. “We are very proud of offering those products.”

The FSU also teamed up with Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor, Leah Marshall, to bring sexual health vending machines to the college. These machines allow more accessibility for students. There is one in the student centre building near the bathrooms, as well as one in Falcon House Residence.

“We knew that students could get the disposable products for free, but we wanted to take it a step further by allowing them to get reusable products at cost,” said Marshall. “We partnered with Diva Cup to be able to provide Diva Cups in the vending machine at cost. For example, if a student were to go to Shoppers, they may pay around $40. In the machines, they’re able to get them for $20.”

Reusable pads are also available in these vending machines, along with many other necessities.

“These machines aren’t moneymakers,” said Marshall. “They are strictly to create better access for students to these products.”

The FSU teamed up with Marshall on a Menstrual Mail-Out campaign as well. These packages will give students who sign up online disposable products, as well as a reusable menstrual cup and a reusable pad.

“We know a one-off thing only captures students of that semester or that year,” said Marshall. “So how can this be something that’s ongoing for students? Disposable products are great, but reusable products have more longevity for students and save money in the long run.”

Both Souza and Marshall agree that period equity is something our community as a whole should be fighting for.

“We are here as leaders,” said Souza. “Even though I am a man and sometimes people can question, ‘Why are you fighting for this?’ I’m fighting for this because I know it’s a need for a fraction of our student population. This needs to be addressed. So, if we have other student leaders not thinking about it, they should. We are here to represent our student population.”

“I believe that no person should have to miss anything because they can’t afford access to menstrual products,” said Marshall. “So as a whole community, not only a college community, access should be more standardized. It would be lovely to live in a world where I would go into any bathroom and be able to access the products.”

Marshall said students have a powerful voice. If you are looking for better accessibility in your community, speak up. You never know how much of a difference it could make.