URGE supplies free menstrual products in women’s restrooms

Student Chloe Chaffin showcases the menstrual products that can now be found in women’s restrooms on campus. This project took several months to complete.

Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity is a student-run organization on campus pushing back on “period poverty”- the lack of access to menstrual products for women with low-incomes- by supplying free menstrual products in all women’s restrooms on campus. According to the organization Days for Girls, over 500 million menstruators experience period poverty. Furthermore, in a survey called State of the Period it was found that 84% of students in the U.S. have or know someone who has missed class time due to limited access to period products.

In recent years, students at Washburn began to initiate the conversation of providing free menstrual products and planned to supply six restrooms. Ultimately, the project was interrupted due to COVID-19.

Chloe Chaffin, president of URGE and junior in English education and political science, picked up the project after speaking with previous members of the organization. She then teamed up with Carlos Cedillo-Silva, treasurer of URGE and senior in history, to begin the process.

“We wanted to do [this project] because for some reason we offer things like condoms, toilet paper and paper towels [which] are all considered free and necessary, but half of the population doesn’t have the choice to menstrate; they just do. So it just made sense to include [menstrual products] in the bathrooms, too,” said Cedillo-Silva.

Chaffin and Cedillo-Silva then reached out to the Washburn Student Government Association for funding and to work through the smaller details of the project. Shayden Hanes, president of WSGA and senior in international business and marketing, along with Quinn Leffingwell, vice president of WSGA and senior in psychology and religious studies, were both excited to be of help on the project.

“We’re both a part of URGE, actually, and we’re very passionate, and a huge part of our campaign was also thinking about the sustainability and working on the health, which we actually added a new position to support that […] because we wanted that to be one of our main priorities,” said Hanes.

Eventually, Aunt Flow, a woman-owned company dedicated to providing free menstrual products, reached out to URGE. After months of organizing, URGE was able to place their first menstrual product dispenser in one of the restrooms on campus. Since then, their hard work has not gone unnoticed.

“I’ve been surprised by how many people, students that I’ve never met before, DMs from people saying, ‘Oh this is so amazing, I love this,’ or people reposting it on their [Instagram] stories,” said Chaffin.

Kristine Hart, faculty advisor for URGE and director of Learning in the Community, congratulated the organization for their efforts in making the project successful.

“As the faculty advisor [for URGE] I never feel like I do a lot because the students are so passionate about the work they’re doing that they have these amazing ideas and they take off,” Hart said. “All of the amazing pieces of the project are coming straight from the students.”

Currently, URGE is still getting dispensers set up in every restroom on campus and making sure they are all stocked for students’ use. These menstrual products can also be found in some of the campus pantries, such as Bods Feeding Bods.

URGE invites students on campus to join their movement focusing on issues of reproductive justice. To become a part of their team, students can direct message URGE on Instagram @washburnurge.

Edited by Justin Shepard, Alijah McCracken