YWCA holds Free the Tampon rally on Sproul Plaza

Calvin Tang/Staff

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A rally advocating for the campus to provide free menstrual products in campus bathrooms was held Wednesday afternoon on Sproul Plaza by YWCA Berkeley/Oakland.

The rally attracted a significant crowd, as two YWCA members spoke about the importance of the campus providing free menstrual products, according to YWCA spokesperson Eileen Ollivier, who organized the rally. YWCA members handed out tampons donated by Tampax to people walking on Sproul Plaza, hoping to garner attention and support.

“We believe tampons and pads are not luxury items. They’re a necessity — just as important as hand soap and toilet paper,” Ollivier said. “It’s difficult to imagine a bathroom without any of those items, and it should be the same for menstrual products.”

Happy Period, a student organization that donates feminine hygiene products to homeless women, worked with YWCA to organize the rally. Happy Period president and campus senior Julie Mendoza, who attended the rally, voiced her concern about the stigma surrounding periods.

“People have reacted with disgust at the sight of an unused, unwrapped tampon,” Mendoza said.

Kevin Figueroa, a campus alumnus and YWCA volunteer who attended the rally, said he believes nonmenstruators can contribute to these efforts by being empathetic and using the privilege that he has as a man who does not have to worry about menstruating to help others.

A number of student organizations, such as the ASUC and Happy Period, have been fighting to make menstrual products readily available to women and those who are gender nonconforming. ASUC Senator Rosa Kwak initiated a pilot project that will make tampons and pads available in locations that are easily accessible to marginalized, low-income students, such as the multicultural center and the local food pantry. The program will begin in the third week of April and be funded through grants.

“We hope that this program will tell the student body that having menstrual products available for free is a possibility,” Kwak said. “We will be able to see how this works out and then apply to much bigger grants in the future, so we can institutionalize it for longer.”

YWCA’s goal is to see free menstrual products in all women’s and gender-inclusive bathrooms on campus. YWCA found that it would cost the campus $4.67 per student that menstruates to implement this plan. Ollivier said students would be required to pay $2.50 extra in tuition in order to implement it as compared women paying $70 per year out of pocket for menstrual products.

The ASUC — which is working independently from YWCA — will be voting on a senate bill next week that will make menstrual products available for free in centralized locations on campus, according to Kwak. Sources of funding are still being discussed, said Kwak.

“UC Berkeley is such a profound university. It’s a leader in so many aspects and has great power to set precedence on other campuses,” Kwak said. ”So hopefully if this is successful, we can inspire and help other campuses everywhere.”

Contact Carina Zhao at [email protected].