The University of Dundee has announced a pioneering plan to expand the availability of its free sanitary products to include its 3,000 online learners, some as far away as New Zealand.
The institution will also make free sanitary products available in male toilets on campus and offer packs to all learners headed home for the summer, so they don’t have to go without.
The move is part of a wider effort to eliminate period poverty.
The announcement, which could see students from 180 countries receive the sanitary support, continues Dundee’s mission to end period poverty, becoming the first university in the United Kingdom to provide free sanitary products to its students in December 2017.
Nine months later, the University of Dundee became the first pilot university to offer free products to all its students after the Scottish Government dedicated £5.4 million to tackling period poverty for all students and school pupils in Scotland.
One of the online learning students who would benefit from the plan is Samira Ali, a 27-year-old from Maiduguri, Nigeria. Samira, who is studying for an MSc Infection Prevention and Control, said: “I’m proud that the University of Dundee’s initiative reaches as far away as my home in northeast Nigeria.
“It will help break the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation and the distress that a lot of women go through. It will make a huge improvement to my life and other students studying from afar.”
Dundee’s trailblazing tradition of tackling period poverty began in 2016 when its students successfully lobbied for the removal of the tampon tax across campus.
Between September 2018 and February 2019, the University of Dundee has distributed 99,684 free products to its students and now, the pioneering project will make the 100% organic cotton products free in male toilets in an extended effort to reduce the stigma around periods.
The products will now become free for sons, fathers, husbands and boyfriends to pick up for their loved ones whilst also ensuring that persons who use male toilets but have functioning uteri are also cared for.
Monica Lennon MSP, whose member’s bill lodged at the Scottish Parliament could make Scotland a ‘world leader’ in eliminating period poverty, said: “I welcome the ambition of the University of Dundee to expand period products to its 3,000 online learners – this really sets a precedent for other higher education institutions to follow.
“Access to period products should be a right regardless of income, no one should ever have to face the indignity of being unable to access these essential products to manage their period.
“The University of Dundee has taken steps to consider the wellbeing of all their students in Scotland and beyond, and the fact that they have distributed almost 100,000 products is further evidence that a universally accessible opt-in system is necessary – which is what my Bill will achieve if passed into law.”
Sharon Sweeney, Student Funding Officer at the University who has led the period poverty pilot, said it’s now time to make sure every student has the opportunity to receive the care they need, no matter where they are in the world.
“Learning doesn’t stop when you leave the lecture theatre and neither should the support our students receive,” said Sharon.
“Our duty of care extends to all those we teach wherever they are in the world and it also covers anyone visiting campus to learn.
“This could be someone coming to our see our Saturday Series lectures or a local school pupil using our library to finish their Highers.
“Anyone from the local community who uses our spaces to learn, and our staff who might also experience period poverty, should feel safe in the knowledge that our sanitary products are free for them too.”