UC Berkeley students, organizations work to provide menstrual products

Photo of menstrual products
Isabella Ko/Staff
Menstrual inequity is being addressed on the local and state level, as student efforts and state legislation work to bring free menstrual products to school restrooms.

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Students and organizations at UC Berkeley focused on menstrual equity have worked on increasing the availability of free menstrual products on campus, in tandem with legislation. 

According to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate, samples of menstrual products are available at locations throughout the Tang Center, but there are currently no free menstrual products offered in bathrooms on campus. ASUC Senator Issabella Romo is working to change that by implementing a pilot program, with the help of custodial staff, which would supply some bathrooms on campus with menstrual products. 

“We see this issue on campuses everywhere, but there is largely a lack of accessibility of menstrual products in campus buildings,” Romo said. 

The Basic Needs Center also provides free menstrual products, Cate said. She added other campus departments have worked on their own initiatives in partnership wth students, and some have received funding from the Wellness Fund. 

Romo noted along with the work done in her office’s menstrual equity department, student-led campus organizations have helped distribute menstrual products to students.

Some of these groups include Generation Flow, Happy Period and the Coalition for the Institutionalization of Free Menstrual Products, or CIFMP. 

In 2019, CIFMP began a project financed by the Wellness Fund, which provides free pads and tampons on Moffitt Library’s fourth and fifth floor restrooms.

“It’s been a really big student-led effort,” Romo said. “But our focus right now is that we work to institutionalize these products.”

In addition to student efforts, legislation is also increasing access to menstrual products. AB 367, or the “Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021,” authored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 8, builds on a 2017 bill also by Garcia.

AB 367 requires public schools serving grades six through 12 to stock the school’s restrooms with free menstrual products in all women’s and gender neutral restrooms, as well as at least one men’s restroom, at all times. Schools are expected to meet this requirement on or before the 2022-23 school year.

The bill also requires the California State University system and community colleges to stock menstrual products in at least one accessible, central location on campus. The bill encourages the same for the UC system as well as other higher learning institutions. 

“Having convenient and free access to these products means our period won’t prevent us from being productive members of society, and would alleviate the anxiety of trying to find a product when out in public,” Garcia said in a press release.

In 2018, the Berkeley Unified School District school board passed a policy requiring all BUSD middle and high schools to provide free menstrual products in all girls’ and gender-neutral restrooms. 

The policy, similarly, also requires menstrual products are stocked in at least one girls’ or gender-neutral restroom at each elementary school. 

According to BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott, the district won’t have to do anything else to meet the requirements of AB 367. 

She added that in order to keep bathrooms stocked, custodial staff checks and refills dispensers throughout the day and during their evening cleanings.

Campus students have noted they would use menstrual products provided in bathrooms. A survey done by former ASUC Senator Apoorva Prakash’s menstrual equity department found that out of 511 respondents, 499 would take free menstrual products from a campus bathroom dispenser if they were offered. 

Additionally, last spring  an ASUC resolution was passed to create a menstrual equity committee. Romo said she will be chairing the committee, which is currently recruiting members and planning to have their first meeting in the coming weeks. 

Moving forward, Romo hopes campus will collaborate with students who have been actively working to supply menstrual products.  

“They should be actively working with students like us who are on the grounds getting this work done,” Romo said. “That way there’s an easy transition between the student efforts and institutionalizing it through the university, and there’s credit given to those who have been working on this for a very long time.”

Mela Seyoum is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @MelaSeyoum.