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Days For Girls Makes Period Products Accessible At Penn State

Days For Girls is the Penn State club that makes and distributes menstrual kits and educates about menstrual health. The group works both locally and internationally to make period products accessible to all menstruators.

The club’s projects last year included stocking Abba Java and Centre Safe & Housing Transitions with hand-sewn menstrual kits, partnering with OrganiCup to provide free menstrual cups to students, and operating multiple product drives. In previous years, the group has also sent menstrual kits abroad to Tanzania. Thanks to its important work, Days For Girls was named the fall 2020 semester’s top organization on campus.

Last spring, Days For Girls created a campus-wide survey to assess student’s menstrual health needs. The survey ended up receiving over 500 responses across all Penn State campuses and shed some light on the need and importance of access to period products.

“When we started that project, it was to make sure that we really understood what our students needed,” Days For Girls President Jess Strait said. “We wanted the data to validate that this is what students are really struggling with.”

Educational and financial barriers affect period poverty at the Penn State level. As Strait puts it, college students are assumed to have prior knowledge about period products — whether it’s how to use them, where to get them, or how to dispose of them. However, this is not always the case.

“I know a lot of the work Days For Girls does happens internationally, which is a great thing,” Strait said. “But at Penn State specifically, we’re kind of trying to paint a picture that this is a problem that happens here. Just because we’re not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

The survey found that product disposal was a huge problem, as 34% of respondents said they’ve been unable to properly dispose of period products in an on-campus bathroom. Days For Girls has been in communication with housing to help solve this problem, especially with students who do not identify as women and struggle to find trash cans in bathrooms that don’t use paper towels.

One of the biggest findings of the survey was that 13% of respondents have skipped class or work due to lack of access to period products. If the survey is seen as representative of University Park as a whole, that is around 2500 students missing class.

Stemming from the results for the survey, the Days For Girls advocacy team developed “Flow2Go,” an initiative bringing free period products to Penn State students.

“This project aids students on campus, no matter where they are on campus, to access menstrual products,” Vice President of Advocacy Emma Cihanowyz said. “This will help students not forgo any parts of the Penn State experience due to not having access to menstrual products, which is a reality we discovered through our Menstrual Health Needs Analysis Survey.”

The main goal is to make sure that there are period products available at reasonably spaced-out locations on campus. By working with the deans of equity and inclusion, all 14 academic colleges will offer free period products for any menstruator to use.

“The idea of utilizing the deans of equity and inclusion in each of the colleges to house products came up during a Women’s Empowerment Roundtable, a UPUA initiative,” Cihanowyz said.

Last year, UPUA created and passed legislation to fund the Flow2Go initiative. All of the products that will be supplied by Flow2Go have been ordered, and UPUA will continue to fund Flow2Go to keep those products stocked.

For now, Flow2Go kits are in the process of creation and distribution. They should be available in all academic colleges by the end of the semester. Students needing those products will need to ask for them at the offices, which raises some access issues for those who feel uncomfortable doing so. But Days For Girls is still working hard to bring access to period products and make students feel comfortable when it comes to menstruation.

“Students of all genders and orientations in need of products should be on the lookout for the finalized location list once the kits are all placed,” Cihanowyz said.

Additionally, Days For Girls has been working on efforts to put up “Safe Menstruating Space” stickers in locations where free period products can be found, as well as creating a map that students can use to locate these products. About 66% of survey respondents said they didn’t know where to access free period products.

Here is the current list of locations where any menstruator can access free period products:

  • HUB bathrooms
  • Library bathrooms
  • Business Building bathrooms
  • Days For Girls’ office (HUB 319)
  • UPUA Mutual Aid (HUB 314)
  • Abba Java (downtown)
  • UHS by appointment
  • Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (cabinet at the center’s entrance)
  • Lion’s Pantry

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected]

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