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St Mary’s Announced Plans to Tackle Period Poverty for Students

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St Mary’s University, Twickenham has today announced plans to end period poverty for students at the University by making sanitary products free in toilets across campus.

Following a successful campaign from St Mary’s Student’s Union (SMSU), the University has announced plans to ensure free sanitary products are readily available in all female toilets across campus from mid-June 2021. Products will be refreshed weekly by the University’s Housekeeping team for the use of student, staff, and visitors, to ensure that lack of access to products does not impact on an individual’s ability to fully participate in education at St Mary’s.

SMSU launched their campaign in 2020 to raise awareness of Period Poverty as a global issue affecting people who cannot get access to sanitary products, whether for financial reasons or otherwise. As part of SMSU’s campaign, they encouraged people to donate sanitary products, which were made available for free in 12 toilet facilities across the University campus for students and staff, ensuring that women on campus had access to sanitary products should they need them.

Period Poverty has been a growing issue during the Covid-19 pandemic, with charity Bloody Good Period highlighting the rise in the need for support. In November, the organisation reported having supplied 53,000 sanitary items to food banks since the pandemic began, a figure that is almost six times as many as previous years.

Global children’s charity Plan International UK (2017) have also conducted research on the subject and found that one in 10 young women (aged 14-21) said they had been unable to afford period products, and 12 per cent had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues. According to the charity, “the enduring stigma associated with menstruation, the high cost of period products and a lack of education, make up a ‘toxic trio’ of period poverty issues that need to be addressed.”

St Mary’s Chief Operating Officer Jo Blunden said, “It has been inspiring to see the support the SU has given our students in ensuring that they are able to access free sanitary products and continue their learning and engagement with the University. I’m delighted that the University is today announcing that it will be taking this work forward permanently, to make sure that all our staff, students and visitors can freely access sanitary products. This is a vital step in supporting women to engage as equal members of the University community”.

St Mary’s Director of Human Resources, Fiona Hnatow said, “As Chair of the Staff EDI Group and as a woman, I am absolutely delighted that the University has fully supported this amazing campaign, driven forward by the Students Union, in ensuring that all our female students can freely access sanitary products -a great step forward for us all”.

SMSU Sports President, Maisie Ward said, “I am thrilled for our students, we knew this was so important and to have the University commit to this is amazing!”

SMSU Education President, Niamh Moore added, “I am delighted that our student voices have been heard, I hope the SU and our students continue to advocate on issues that are so important to them.”

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