Langara weighs proposal for free tampons

Lack of access to hygiene products can impact students' participation in community

Current coin dispensers for tampon and pads in Langara women's washrooms sell items for $0.25. Photo: Missy Johnson
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Reported by Missy Johnson

Langara is open to changing its coin machines to free dispensers, as a menstrual equity movement gains momentum at schools and colleges across the country.

Dwayne Doornbosch, Langara’s director of facilities, said Langara would consider offering free tampons if there was a way to ensure people don’t take more than they need.

Regarding free tampons and pads, the issue we have is that the machines just get emptied by people when they are free. By making people pay, this helps to reduce the issue,” he said in an email. “We would consider changing if [there] was a solution that was proposed that would work.  At this point we haven’t found one.”

Centennial College in Toronto was among the first to install free dispensers in place of the regular coin machines in April. Colleges and universities in Halifax, Calgary and Montreal have joined the movement.

Access to menstrual products matters

In May, a survey was conducted by Plan International Canada, and found that one-third of women under the age of 25 in Canada have struggled to pay for menstrual products.

Experts say it’s important that women have access to these items and it “does make a difference in women’s ability to participate in their communities wholeheartedly,” said Nancy Pollak, coordinator of the women’s studies program at Langara college.

In the Lower Mainland, advocate Dr. Selina Tribe has been making her way across different school boards hoping they pass legislation to require free dispensing units be installed in bathrooms.

“This is a normal bodily function that I think needs a little more support in the school system,” she said.

There is one place on campus individuals can find sanitary products if they’re able to show financial need. VOLT in The Hub makes and hands out care packages.

“They express an enormous amount of gratitude for having those products available,” said Maggie Stewart, volunteer program coordinator.

Centennial College’s next steps include making the dispensers available in the men’s washrooms as well. When asked if Langara College should consider this, Pollak said it makes perfect sense as to not exclude trans and non-binary students.

Reporter Missy Johnson asks Langara students whether they think Langara should supply free tampons and pads in washrooms

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