SGA ends trial run, continues push for free pads and tampons
After an empty tampon dispenser in the Student Center forced her to ask fellow female student leaders for products, SGA Deputy Chief of Staff Winni Zhang other SGA members embarked on a mission to prevent other students from continually ending up in similar situations.
What began as a personal crisis for Zhang has resulted in a Student Government Association initiative to bring free feminine hygiene products to restrooms across the University of Houston campus. On Dec. 1, Zhang began a trial service offering free pads and tampons in the women’s restrooms of Student Centers North and South.
“We should be ensuring that a student can go to the nearest restroom and get access to the feminine hygiene products they need,” Zhang said. “It sends a message that we support our women on campus.”
The initiative began as a project to see how widespread the problem was, Zhang said. The available pad and tampon dispensers, or lack thereof, were assessed in nearly 400 bathrooms across campus.
With too many dispensers missing from the nearly 400 on-campus restrooms, and the $100 plus cost needed to replace each of them, it was clear to Zhang that a different approach would need to be taken. Additionally, Zhang said the installation of each pad and tampon dispenser requires the approval of both the building manager and donor responsible for that building.
“We represent the student body here at UH, and the female population is roughly half of our constituency,” said SGA Director of Public Relations Dena Moghtader. “Hopefully, we can get free pads and tampons placed in every family and women restroom on campus so no matter where a student is, whether it’s before their test in CASA or during class in CBB, they always have the support they need.”
After receiving pushback from UH Facilities on the idea of providing students with free hygiene products, Zhang and fellow members of SGA decided that a trial run of the service would be the best way to answer their questions.
“Our trial was limited to SC North and South, but we do hope to have this service expanded to all buildings on campus by this semester,” Moghtader said.
Since the beginning of the trial, some students at other universities have taken to social media to ask for similar programs to be introduced on their campuses, Moghtader said. Zhang said several universities have reached out, asking how to begin their own version of the service.
Though the trial run ended Dec. 17, the push for free pads and tampons will be ongoing, Zhang said.
“I think this is the right step for the University,” Zhang said. “We would be taking a step for creating an inclusive learning atmosphere for students across campus, and be one of the leading universities implementing this kind of project.”
Students supported putting tampons in bathrooms by tweeting with the hashtag #FreeForMe. When SGA meets with UH Facilities one more time this semester to present the results from the trial run, they will include in their findings the amount of support they received on social media.
“Sometimes periods come unexpectedly and it’s really reassuring to know we have (products) available to us, no problem,” said sociology sophomore Ericka Saenz in an email to The Cougar, after tweeting her appreciation of the project. “Especially with commuters who can’t just walk to their dorm and get what they need.”
While restocking the SC restrooms, Zhang found that other women had been contributing their own pads and tampons to the baskets. In a tweet, Zhang said that women supporting women is something the world needs more of.
Overall, Zhang said, the experience was amazing.
“There was a feeling of solidarity between students on campus to support these movements,” Zhang said. “That in itself was incredibly heartwarming and portrayed a sense of community.”