“Several months ago, I was only making $600/month and had to choose between eating and menstrual products more than once…UGA providing free menstrual products would ensure the silently impoverished students are more easily able to reach their full academic potential.”
When you think of the tools students need to succeed in school, you might name things like a computer, notebooks, or access to study space. Most people don’t immediately consider access to period products a factor, but according to a survey conducted among UGA students, insufficient access to period products can be detrimental to a student’s education.
This survey, conducted from June-August 2020, was the first step in the formation of Project Red, an initiative to install menstrual product dispensers on UGA’s campus. Started as an offshoot of Period Project at UGA’s advocacy branch, “Project Red” became the branded name for a pilot program that provides free, biodegradable menstrual products in select all-gender UGA restrooms.
To gain a deeper understanding of the menstrual needs at UGA and in the surrounding Athens-Clarke County area, the Project Red team conducted a community needs assessment consisting of ten interviews with community members, distributed two surveys to UGA students, faculty, and staff, and assessed Project Red Instagram analytics.
Many survey respondents reported difficulties in obtaining period products and how these difficulties have affected their education. One student reported,
“I have very inconsistent and heavy periods, so oftentimes I find myself without the proper supplies when I find I need them…it is usually quite difficult to find an affordable product in times of need during or in between classes.”
Other students emphasized needs related to reproductive health that affect their menstrual cycles. For example, another student mentioned health concerns that contributed to elevated costs related to period products,
“…I dealt with quite a few menstrual issues stemming from comorbid [endometriosis] & PCOS – one time bleeding for 80 straight days…I was uninsured…Even cheap alternatives are expensive to students…”
The survey also collected responses related to everyday inconveniences that affect students’ ability to focus on their academic work,
“One time I was in class and started my period…I bled completely through my white leggings that day. My only saving grace to get me through my next classes was some wadded-up toilet paper and a friend’s jacket that I tied around my waist.”
Once the Project Red team gathered this survey data, they developed a report to pitch to UGA’s auxiliary services team to garner support for a pilot program installing period dispensers in two all-gender restrooms with funding from a $4,000 grant provided by the Office of Sustainability.
The team is working with UGA staff to expand and sustain the program, with hopes that it will be absorbed into the budget, so it is no longer reliant on grant money.
Project Red is currently creating a toolkit for other college groups looking to implement a similar program on their campus.