Why we need to free the tampon


Karla DeBruin

59% of the students at UNI are women and should receive free access to tampons or pads in restrooms.


Menstrual products should be free to access and free to use

Every woman (or menstruator) has a period horror story. Whether they got their period in gym class, while swimming, or in front of their middle school crush, these slightly traumatic experiences usually end up with a frantic and somewhat embarrassing hunt for a tampon or pad. In some cases wads of toilet paper are a last ditch resort if a tampon is nowhere to be found. 79% of women surveyed in a national study about menstrual equity admitted to improvising and “Macgyvering” a tampon or pad out of toilet paper in an emergency. 

Toilet paper, paper towels and soap are all seen as basic human necessities, yet why are menstrual products viewed as a luxury? In some bathrooms women must pay 25 cents for a menstrual product like they are candy in a vending machine. A product that is essential to helping more than half the population go about their daily lives should be available for free and easy access. 

As a senator for Northern Iowan Student Government (NISG), I continued the initiative (which began in 2019), supplying UNI students with free menstrual products in bathrooms across campus along with UNI Feminists. Since we began stocking six highly trafficked bathrooms across campus with readily available pads and tampons, these products have been heavily utilized. Some have even left their extra period products on the shelf for those in need. Although providing a few free pads and tampons may seem like an insignificant investment, this is an overlooked and desperately needed service for the women and menstruators on our campus. 

According to multiple state and nationwide surveys, period poverty among college students is rampant. More than four in five students in the United States have either missed class time or know someone who has missed class time because they did not have access to period products. One in five teens have struggled to afford period products or were not able to purchase them at all while 61% have worn a tampon or pad for more than four hours because they did not have access to period products which put them at risk of infection. 

Although NISG and UNI Feminists have been able to supply a few bathrooms with products for this year, we have no sustainable funding for upcoming semesters. For just $2,500 a year we would be able to supply free products across majorly trafficked restrooms across campus. UNI’s student population is majority women who deserve to focus on getting their education, not on whether or not they have access to a basic sanitary necessity. By funding this initiative the university would be investing in not only a basic hygienic necessity for more than half of the student population, but will be actively supporting and empowering menstruators in their pursuit of education and healthy reproductive health.

 To voice your support and lobby the university for funding this program, please scan the QR code and fill out the survey.