By BGSU President Connor Short
In December 2022, I created the ‘Not a Luxury’ campaign following a difficult interaction with a student who had found herself in a desperate situation. Despite its negative origins, my hope is that the campaign will have a positive impact for everyone at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU).
I was working in my office when a group of students knocked on my door. I answered the door to be met by two young female students, one of whom was visibly upset and being encouraged to speak by her friend. When she gathered the breath to speak, she asked me if I had a tampon. Thankfully, I did.
This brief interaction left me thinking of a few things: why do students feel like they can’t ask for what I would consider to be a totally normal request? And why are these products not readily available to those who need them? After some research I found that in 2022, nearly one in eight women in the UK struggled to buy menstrual products for themselves and/or a dependant.
This began a personal mission for me to not only provide free period products for staff and students, but also to raise awareness for the issue of period poverty and destigmatise the use of these products. This is because nearly half (46%) of women who struggled to afford sanitary products in the last six months kept sanitary pads or tampons in for longer or used tissues (46%). 10% doubled up their underwear.
The ‘Not a Luxury’ scheme aims to provide free period products to all staff and students via bathroom stalls, by placing a small bag of products in a sign-posted stall in a publicly accessed toilet. It also aims to de-stigmatise the use and discussion of these products through raising awareness and encouraging open discussion.
This scheme been designed to grow and evolve to respond to the needs of the BGU community. Starting with the product distribution on campus and with the next aim to increase the number of sanitary bins in the toilets on campus.
I am very proud to say that this scheme is not alone. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with student leaders from all around the UK at the NUS National Conference. It was at this conference where I was asked to speak about the ‘Not a Luxury’ campaign. This was received very well and presented an opportunity for other student leaders to discuss their own, similar schemes with some even going as far as to refer to BGSU as a ‘trailblazer in inclusivity’.
To succeed, this campaign needs continued support from both staff and students. The main motivation of the campaign is to provide products to those who might not otherwise be able to access them or purchase them. It’s just one way that BGSU is trying to help people who need it, with zero-judgement.
The ‘Not a Luxury’ campaign has been fostering understanding, providing much-needed products to those who need them, and shining a light on gender non-exclusive use of period products. To show your support or for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or come to the student’s union building and ask for Connor.
Period products are a right, not a luxury.