'Period won't ask when pharmacy's open'

Women's Issues Network circulates a tampon petition

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Washroom dispenser

Jon Purdy

HEY, WHERE'S THE GUMBALL WRAPPED IN TINFOIL? The feminine napkin dispensers on campus have not been filled by university administration for some time now. The Women's Issues Network has decided to start a petition to change that.

If you’re a female student who has ever been caught on campus without feminine products at that-time-of-the-month, you might have noticed there are none stocked in Western washrooms " and the Women’s Issues Network wants to change that.

As part of a new initiative, WIN has plastered the dispensers with posters pointing women to its office, where tampons and pads will be available for purchase.

In addition, a petition was started by some WIN members to encourage action on behalf of the University Students’ Council.

Tom Stevenson, USC president, expressed support for the project.

However, he said certain claims made on the initial Facebook group, “UWO USC GIVE ME TAMPONS AND PADS!!!!” and petition were “wildly inaccurate.”

Launched earlier this week, the Facebook group said: “Women all over our campus will no longer have access to sanitary feminine products in any washrooms of any building. The USC doesn’t want to include this necessity in their budget.”

Stevenson said it was actually a university administration decision to stop restocking the dispensers, not the USC.

“All vending machines on campus are run by the university,” he explained.

The topic of empty dispensers was raised at a recent USC meeting by WIN coordinator Tani Malhotra. Stevenson’s response was the program is no longer run by the university.

Malhotra said her inquiries were also met with opposition from those who felt the on-campus pharmacy is sufficient for women’s needs.

“But it’s only open on weekdays until 6 p.m.,” Malhotra said. “My period is not going to ask when the pharmacy is open.”

Malhotra attributed the original tone of the petition and accompanying Facebook to miscommunication " as the USC did not clarify where tampon dispenser funding came from. A new version of the petition was being drafted at press time.

“There was a little bit of jumping the gun,” Malhotra admitted.

Now, WIN’s strategy is to pressure university administration to provide feminine products in all washrooms for a minimal fee. Malhotra said the USC is on board as well.

WIN executive member and V-Day producer Sarah Scanlon questioned why the USC never redirected WIN’s concerns to the proper channels in the first place.

“Cool, it’s not their initiative, but they didn’t give us any direction,” Scanlon said. “They didn’t want to deal with it.”

Women approached by The Gazette had various sentiments on the necessity of feminine protection dispensers, but most said they never used them.

“If they were available, people would rely on them more. Right now it’s unnoticeable,” Candice Leyon, third-year health science student, said.

Fourth-year health science student Navaz Khory has never needed the dispensers.

“I don’t know anyone who uses them, except in emergencies,” she said. “But I guess that’s the point.”

Scanlon assured this is a big issue for Western students and recalled her own frustration at being previously stranded on campus without feminine protection.

“What are you supposed to do, wrap toilet paper around your underwear?”

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