Students at the University of Georgia are trying to end period stigma and help aid period poverty. PERIOD at UGA is an organization on campus that helps do both of those things.
PERIOD is a national network that is found on other campuses across the country. One of PERIOD at UGA’s main goals is to expand access to menstrual care at UGA.
Mahathi Mula, a fifth-year psychology major at UGA, noticed last semester that there were no trash cans in the stalls on campus where people could privately discard their used products. This led Mula to research menstrual companies, and she was ultimately connected to PERIOD at UGA.
With other PERIOD at UGA members, Mula helped create the initiative of implementing menstrual products across campus. The project is known as Project Red.
Maeve Breathnach, Jaaie Varshney, Ashley Boyle and Suvitha Viswanathan teamed up with Mula to help make Project Red a sustainable project at UGA.
“The ultimate goal of Project Red is to garner support from the university to create a more welcoming environment on campus through menstrual products that are accessible to all students, staff and faculty,” Mula said.
Last semester, Mula applied for a grant from Aunt Flow, a menstrual product company, that will supply $4,500 worth of products and dispensers to UGA’s campus. Aunt Flow’s products are biodegradable, organic and safe for both the environment and people who menstruate, according to its website.
Aunt Flow’s grant of $4,500 will provide ten dispensers as well as initial menstrual products and installation costs at UGA. Project Red has chosen ten bathrooms across campus where the first dispensers will be installed. The ten locations were chosen because they are gender inclusive bathrooms, according to Mula.
There is no cost to the university for the initial start of the program, but UGA will need to provide funding in order to keep the program going. Varshney said Project Red plans to apply for grants in order to receive more funding for the program in the future.
“We hope that our pilot program becomes a part of UGA’s budget every year, and that UGA supports this program and incorporates it on its own and creates a more welcoming environment for all students by providing these products for free,” Varshney said.
The problem with a lack of menstrual products on campus is an academic issue, Breathnach said. Aunt Flow published a study based on schools that have already implemented the program. According to the study, attendance increased by 2.4% when schools in New York City started offering freely accessible menstrual products in the bathrooms.
“Schools really need to take this issue seriously because it impacts learning directly,” Mula said.
Project Red hopes that the university takes steps towards implementing the program for this school year, according to Varshney.
The members of Project Red have met with the facilities management team at UGA, but hope to gain the support of the UGA administration. Concerning the budget, the recent pandemic will be an obstacle to overcome, Boyle said.
“What is in the budget really does communicate what the university values. We are arguing despite these budget cuts, these products and these dispensers are so important for over half of UGA’s population,” Boyle said. “The space in the budget shouldn’t even be a question because it is showing UGA students that the UGA administration cares about them.”