Lucy Morgan, Newcastle University Students’ Union Gender Equality Officer writes about why students ’ unions should get involved with Period Pride Day this Thursday 18 February.
#FreePeriods is a campaign that has swept the nation’s universities. The provision of free menstrual care for students who have periods and the removal of tax on menstrual care products in union shops is now becoming a reality across the UK. In September 2014, I and Rohan Kon decided to bring the campaign to Newcastle. We knew it was going to be a big task – any student activists in the North East can confirm that Newcastle University isn’t always the hub of political activism. In order to stand the best chance of launching a successful campaign, Rohan and I spent eight hours in the basement of the library meticulously planning the ins and outs of #FreePeriods – including coming up with the name! But we underestimated the social norm key to the continuation of the tampon tax – period shame.
As feminist activists, Rohan and I talked about periods quite happily and openly. However, the wider student body was not initially on our wavelength. We found this out (to our painful embarrassment) when we held our first stall outside our union bar. Our plan was to hand out free tampons and ask people to sign our #FreePeriods@NUSU petition. The reactions we received ranged from horror and disgust to ridicule. It was not a good day. We were forced to confront the fact that the tampon tax and the ridiculous cost of free menstrual care products were only made possible by the fact that society was still too embarrassed to talk about it.
Rohan decided to create a national day called ‘Period Pride Day’ in order to tackle the stigma associated with having periods. On 18 February 2015, Period Pride Day had its first trial run at Newcastle Student’s Union. During the day we organised a fundraiser and handed out leaflets about #FreePeriods. With the money raised from the fundraiser, Rohan and I ran around Newcastle city centre buying supplies to make packs for homeless people with periods. The supplies included tampons, pads, gloves, socks, sweets, and much more. In the evening Rohan ran a ‘Period Pride’ workshop in which she gave a presentation on the stigma surrounding periods and organised activities to get people talking about their own experiences with, and feelings towards periods. At the end of the workshop we all helped to put together the packs for homeless people with periods.
And now Period Pride Day is going national! From Sheffield to Cardiff, Period Pride is taking universities by storm. In partnership with NUS, Rohan Kon has created accessible, online tools such as template posters and model workshops for celebrating Period Pride Day at your university (www.nusu.co.uk/period). NUS will also be releasing a #FreePeriods toolkit to encourage more students to make free menstrual care a reality on their campuses.
Hosting a ‘Period Pride Day’ made the success of our #FreePeriods campaign much more attainable. Our motion to provide free menstrual care at Newcastle Student’s Union went through with 100% approval – no questions asked. Whether you are lobbying your student’s union to remove the tax on menstrual care and/or campaigning for the provision of free menstrual care products, by celebrating Period Pride Day you are creating an honest, open environment where these changes can be made. Period.