By Abby Chapman (Year 47/2022, Canada-PEI)

This year, Pearson College UWC saw the founding of a new group called, “The Menstrual Justice Team.” Forming this group was the culmination of several years of work from Pearson alumni who fought for menstrual justice on campus. We would like to dedicate all of our success this year to the strong foundation laid down by these individuals in the years before us!

Why did so many here on campus work so hard on this initiative? Pearson’s student body is made up of individuals from 85+ countries representing diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Arriving on campus, the presence of “period poverty” here soon became apparent, therefore, the menstrual justice team formed to provide awareness, education, and equity for all Pearson menstruators.

With the high cost of menstrual products as well as limited access due to Pearson’s relatively remote location, The Menstrual Justice Teams was determined to bring about a solution. To address this immediate need, we wrote a proposal to our school’s College Assembly requesting that menstrual products be provided, just as they currently provide toilet paper.

The average menstruator spends up to $6,000 on menstrual products in their lifetime, not by choice, but rather as the result of a natural bodily function. Our proposal was approved by the CA and was reviewed and endorsed by the College administration.

This secured $5,000 for a menstrual product budget for the remainder of this school year, plus a commitment for $8,000 in annual funding for all years to come. Now, students have free access to products such as tampons and pads in each of the five houses, as well as in academic space washrooms.

As countries around the world are moving towards more equitable treatment of menstruators, this was a small but deeply meaningful feat in our community.

In securing funding from the school for disposable menstrual products, our group moved to shift our focus in supporting Pearson menstruators to find more sustainable product options. In a menstruator’s lifetime, it is estimated that they use enough menstrual products to fill a bus. Additionally, the materials that make up disposable products are often non-biodegradable and long outlive their use. However, reusable products such as menstrual cups, can last up to 10 years and are an excellent option to reduce waste and reduce the environmental impact.

This year, Pearson was incredibly fortunate to be supported by two companies, DivaCup and Pixie Cup, which supported our initiatives through donations of more than $6,000 worth of products. DivaCup donated several units of items such as notebooks and menstrual cup wipes, which came in handy for student note taking during menstrual/sexual health sessions, and outdoor project week menstruation survival, respectively. Pixie Cup donated 150 units of menstrual cups in both small and large sizes, allowing Pearson students a free option to sustainably menstruate.

Thanks to their support, the Menstrual Justice Team was able to host several educational workshops such as “Menstruating in the Wilderness,” and “How to use a Menstrual Cup” in order to make best use of these donations. Once received here on campus, the menstrual cups were distributed to interested students and student support groups were formed to support menstrual cup adoption. These donations allowed us to pursue other initiatives such as funds for house bidets in the girls’ washrooms and hot water bottles available to be checked out by those experiencing menstrual cramps.

The Menstrual Justice Team is grateful to every student who supported the initiative this year and we really appreciated the guidance and advice provided by group mentor Marija Uzunova Dang. This initiative will continue to have a positive impact for students in the years to come.

Team member and fellow student Rudaina Mustansir (Year 48 – Bangladesh) put it best when she said, “Working in the Menstrual Justice Team made me acknowledge the steps we still have to take to ensure that there is equity in the campus and understand how menstrual stress can impact overall health and well-being of the community. Having an amazing team of supportive, determined and feisty non-men made the work even better and I am super-excited to work next year (and come back in the future!!) to ensure empowerment and increase awareness about everything menstrual.”

(This article has been lightly edited for clarity and to add links.)