TU Delft has been handing out emergency packets of tampons or sanitary towels since 1 March. During the pilot, the products can be obtained at the service desks from Architecture and the Built Environment, Industrial Design Engineering, Pulse and The Fellowship free of charge.
“It is annoying if you have to miss a learning opportunity because you unexpectedly started your period and do not have any tampons or sanitary towels with you,” says Student Council member Rutger Blijleven (Oras). He has argued for the availability of free menstruation products at TU Delft since September last year. “You want to make the campus a comfortable place for everyone. So if we can support this in any way, we should do it.”
To convince the Executive Board of the need, Blijleven worked with the Stylos (Architecture and the Built Environment) and ID (IDE Industrial Design Engineering) study associations – who were already working on the design – to come up with a plan of action that he presented to Vice-Rector Magnificus Rob Mudde. The Executive Board voted for a pilot in the four locations mentioned above.
‘You want to make the campus a comfortable place for everyone’
“The four buildings were chosen carefully,” says Blijleven. “Architecture and the Built Environment and IDE as the study associations were closely involved in the preliminary research, Pulse because it is a generic building that has long opening hours, and Fellowship to serve the southern end of the campus.”
The pilot will run until the summer and will be evaluated at the beginning of July. The outcomes of an online users survey will be important input for the evaluation. It asks what students and staff members think of the initiative.
Blijleven explains that “In the toilets at the test locations are posters with a QR code to the questionnaire. We thus hope to reach both the users and the non-users. Up to now the respondents have been fifty-fifty and have been positive.”
That said, TU Delft Coordinator of Facility Services Marga van Hagen, who is closely involved in the pilot, does have points for improvement. “The packets are now packed in plastic and we are looking for a sustainable option. This also applies to the products themselves. For the pilot we bought regular tampons and sanitary towels from a wholesaler, but we would prefer to have organic versions.”
Is it not awkward having to ask for tampons or sanitary towels from a service desk? Blijleven and Van Hagen do not think so. “All the service desk staff are aware of the pilot. We have not heard anything of the kind from them,” says Van Hagen. “Should people see this as an obstacle, it will come out in the questionnaire.”
‘We sometimes do not take menstruation poverty seriously’
Is a cupboard with menstruation products, as the Free University of Amsterdam has, not an option? SVRU, the Students Union, uses cupboards to make free tampons and sanitary towels available to whoever needs them, be it in emergencies or if you do not have the money to buy the items yourself.
“At the moment, our bags contain three tampons or sanitary towels,” says Blijleven. “This is usually enough to not have to miss a day of education. We chose not to use cupboard to avoid people using them for their personal stock. TU Delft is finding it hard to take full responsibility for this, so this is a good compromise to at least be responsible for what happens on campus.”
Van Hagen does see an opening though. “We sometimes do not take menstruation poverty seriously. If the questionnaire shows that it is an issue in our community too, it will be a very strong argument to open it for discussion during the evaluation.”
- The pilot will run until the summer and may be extended if it is evaluated positively. If you would like to share your thoughts about the pilot, fill in the online questionnaire here.