Last summer, four ladies’ lavatories on campus Woudestein were equipped with cabinets containing menstrual products. The cabinets were installed on the initiative of several members of the University Council, Erasmus Verbindt and researcher Maria Carmen Punzi, who is conducting a study on gender equality and sexual and menstrual health at the Rotterdam School of Management.

Organic products

Punzi, who personally replenishes the cabinets’ stocks, in association with former councillor Ana Uribe Sandoval, is very pleased that a budget has been earmarked for menstrual products. “This sum will allow us to buy about a year’s worth of products from a Dutch company that supplies organic products.” Stocks in the cabinets are replenished about once a week.

When the pilot study commenced, critics feared that thieves would steal all the products dispensed by the cabinets, but Punzi has seen nothing of the sort. “To be honest, it’s hard to monitor what’s happening. But in my experience, while some products will have disappeared after a few days, they will never all have disappeared, so that would seem to indicate that they’re being used properly. Every once in a while, people will actually add new products to the cabinets.”

Permanent support

By now the initiators have set out a survey (which can still be taken) to try to identify the needs of the people who use the campus. The survey has already been taken by 170 persons. “Among other things, it shows that many students need more information. We also ask them whether they need the products to be supplied in more buildings, or whether they don’t need the products to be supplied in many places but rather need a wider range of products. We haven’t made a decision on that yet.”

Punzi hopes that in the longer term, rather than the project relying on just a few persons, the university will provide menstrual products on a permanent basis. It has already been made a permanent arrangement at the Faculty of Medicine.

Maria Carmen Punzi foto Amber Leijen

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