Students demand free on-campus menstrual products at first National Period Day rally

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A crowd of nearly 150 people dressed in red traveled from across Texas to attend the first National Period Day rally to protest the “tampon tax” and end period poverty.

Students gathered at Republic Square Park Saturday to advocate for free menstrual products on campus. During the rally, people chanted “Axe the tax!” and “Hey, ho! Period poverty has got to go!” as they held up posters.

Tasnim Islam is the co-president of UT’s chapter of Deeds Not Words, a women’s reproductive health advocacy nonprofit. Islam, a public health and Plan II sophomore said free menstrual products would alleviate stress for students. 

Islam said she attended the rally because things haven’t changed despite years of student activism.

“Right now, we’re here trying to alleviate the menstrual inequities that exist on campus, and it still hasn’t happened yet, so we’re here fighting that,” Islam said.

Public health freshman Sameeha Rizvi said tuition should include funding for basic menstrual hygiene products for students and faculty.

“Truthfully, period poverty is an intersectional issue,” Rizvi said. “We need to fight for everyone.”

The UT Women’s Resource Agency of Student Government helped implement a pilot program that provides free tampons and pads to students in the Texan Union in October 2018, according to The Daily Texan. Other universities such as Texas State University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi provide free menstrual products across their campuses, said Alexa Atkinson, founder of the nonprofit Periods ATX.

Mollie Becker is the co-president of PERIOD UT, a student organization advocating to end the stigma surrounding periods. She said she started a petition in May, which currently has more than 950 signatures, demanding free menstrual products be provided at the University.

“We like to think we’re a big, progressive university, but we should be leading the charge,” said Becker, an international relations and global studies senior. “Literally half of our population needs these products each month, whether they want to or not.”

Becker said she is currently working with the Women’s Resource Agency on updating legislation to provide free menstrual products in ten highly-used bathrooms on campus.

Atkinson said she’s determined to get free menstrual products at UT.

“It’s time to raise our voices and stand up for the sake of humanity,” Atkinson said. “Let’s be the change this world needs.”