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Menstrual products
The first dispensers have already been installed in select bathrooms on campus. Image: Pexels/Stock
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Menstrual products were removed from campus bathrooms by the University several years ago

A student-led initiative has recently brought back accessible and sustainable menstrual products to campus at the University of Ottawa.

The uOttawa Period Project, founded by five female students, has partnered with the University of Ottawa to install menstrual product dispensers in heavily trafficked bathrooms across campus. The project, now in its pilot phase, has been authorized by the University to purchase and install five dispensers in five washrooms. 

The founding members of the uOttawa Period Project met in an environmental history class, where they were tasked with coming up with a sustainable and innovative solution to a problem on campus. 

“[Our TA] Celeste [Digiovanni] brought my attention to the lack of accessibility on campus when it comes to menstrual products. This grabbed my attention and from there I did a bit of research and brought my idea to the rest of the group,” wrote Holly Nissen, one of the founding members of the uOttawa Period Project, in a statement to the Fulcrum.

“I honestly had no idea that the school had taken away period products, and so when my group member Holly had informed me that this was the case it really got me thinking about how we could tie this into our sustainability project,” added Kate Cameron, another founding member, in a statement.

Once they identified this gap in student services, the group began to search for a solution that would not only improve accessibility, but do so sustainably. They landed on Aunt Flow, a company that produces eco-friendly menstrual products for schools and large businesses.

The response from the U of O community has been overwhelmingly positive at this early stage in the project. The uOttawa Period Project Instagram page has amassed almost 700 followers, and has attracted volunteers as well as potential partners.

“I adore my group and everyone from the university who has joined our project,” said Cameron. 

“I would 100 per cent consider this a success. Just the overwhelming support from the community members and supportive staff has made this journey so worth all the hard work and long hours our group has put in.”

While the group is happy with their success so far, they envision significant expansions to the project in the future.

“We plan to eventually be able to install dispensers that provide free eco-friendly menstrual products in every washroom on campus. We don’t want to limit them to only women’s washrooms as we recognize the importance of having these products accessible to all who need them as it is not only women who menstruate, just like not all women menstruate,” wrote Nissen. 

The University also hopes to see the project expanded in the coming months. 

“The first phase of this initiative is a pilot project to install dispensers in five washrooms on campus in the Fall of 2021. The pilot project will take place between the Fall of 2021 until the Summer of 2022, at which point we’ll be able to assess it. The goal is to install dispensers across campus,” wrote U of O media relations manager Isabelle Mailloux-Pulkinghorn in a statement to the Fulcrum.

The first dispensers have already been installed. The uOttawa Period Project announced on Instagram that the pilot dispensers are now operational in select bathrooms across campus.

Mailloux-Pulkinghorn encouraged students to visit the uOttawa Office of Campus Sustainability for more information.

With files from Salma El Hajj.