Women queued for free tampons and sanitary towels in the first week of the Students’ Union’s ‘Free Period initiative.

The scheme received a very positive response on its first day with  163 women and men collecting free tampons, mooncups, and sanitary towels. Free sanitary products will be available from 12pm to 4pm every Wednesday at a stall outside Falmer House.

They were amazed by the Union’s new scheme of providing free sanitary products. “It saved me a fortune this month.” said one of the students. One-month’s supply of mooncups was finished in the first 30 minutes. Many students were asking if this scheme would be continued throughout the year.

The Students’ Union has been funded £10,000 for the entire year, enough money to provide 1500 students with sanitary products.

Students’ Union Welfare Officer Rianna Gargiulo said that this is probably the first student union in the country to do a scheme on this scale. The scheme has been widely appreciated by students. Rianna said: “Loads of people send messages every time I share it and say well done, this is a very good idea.”

Tampons and sanitary towel cost about £3 in the Union shop, despite that fact that they are sold profit-free.

Tabbi, from Ghana, said “It is so hard to afford these products especially for international students who have to convert a different currency.”

Sasha, 19, said: “This was a great idea because most of students are struggling financially.”

Holly, 22, said: “Sanitary products should be more accessible for people who are on a budget or can’t afford the product in that time of the month.

“The fact that we still have to pay tax for this stuff is terrible.”

Casey, 19 said: “It is so weird that men’s razors aren’t taxed because they are considered as necessity but women’s tampons are taxed.”

All women sanitary products are subject to 5 per cent VAT as luxury, non-essential items, while some products such as “alcoholic jellies” and “exotic meats including crocodile and kangaroo” are exempt from tax. Most women complained about how expensive sanitary products are.

Kate, 23 thought that women should not be taxed for something that is a necessity. “The fact that there is a VAT on it as well, that’s a problem.”

Welfare Officer Rianna Gargiulo said that the idea of the “free period scheme” initiated last year after a group of students campaigned for the Students’ Union to sell profit free sanitary products and thought that giving them away would be the next thing to do. 

She protested against VAT on periods and shared a petition, which got a lot of responds; “It is obviously something that people care about”.

Taraneh Fathalian

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3 Comments

  • A note that sanitary products are not just for women and it was not just women who queued up for them: many trans men, non-binary and intersex students may need sanitary products too – when talking about this campaign it’s important to use inclusive language.

  • Not as a newspaper I’m afraid Emily Pinto. It’s obviously helpful to use inclusive language *where appropriate* but in this case it’s more important to be scientific and to not mislead and if I, as a man, bled from my penis – I should be going to the doctor because I might have kidney, bladder or prostate cancer.

    • Hi Paul. I have no idea why you think a student newspaper is an inappropriate place for using language that is inclusive of trans people- surely it’s always appropriate to use inclusive language? Reporting that ‘Students queued for free tampons and sanitary towels in the first week of the Students’ Union’s ‘Free Period initiative’ instead of ‘Women’ would be more accurate, inclusive, and, i’m pretty sure, would not lead anyone to worry that you had a bleeding penis.