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End Period Poverty

Free Period Products, no one should go without period products. We are working together to provide pads and tampons for anyone who needs them on the UCD Campus.

“Period poverty affects women, girls and people who menstruate all over the world. Access to menstrual products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma, is essential for anyone who menstruates. But for many, this is not a reality. This is not just a potential health risk - it can also mean girls' education, well-being, and sometimes entire lives are affected”.

According to Plan International, 50% of girls have difficulties paying for period products. 61% of them missed class over their period. They have also stated that 55% of girls find it embarrassing to talk about their periods.  For students who are in similar circumstances, alleviating the financial burden, stigma and other negative associations with their period can be significantly advanced by provision of products on campus through free vending machines.    

In 2019, according to CSO figures, 17.8% of people were living in enforced deprivation in Ireland, with women more likely to experience enforced deprivation. It is estimated that Irish women and girls spend an average of €132 every year on tampons and sanitary towels.

Using period products for longer time than is recommended, or using unsuitable alternatives, can lead to infections and health issues.   Women, girls, and trans people may feel they have no choice but to miss out on educational activities, work, or recreation due to not having appropriate products. Period poverty can interfere with access to education for young women.   This is particularly relevant for younger women and teenagers who may not have access to their own incomes.  Ultimately, there remains a stigma associated with periods (and indeed all health issues affecting menstruation). Poor cultural understanding, education and tormenting from peers around the issue of periods leads to shame and embarrassment for young people who need access to proper products (MTU:2021).  

Following the support for a motion tabled by the Irish Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in 2019 to alleviate period poverty in Ireland, a cross-departmental sub-committee on Period Poverty was established and published a report in 2021. The Programme for Government 2020, makes the following specific commitment under ‘Better Opportunities through Education and Research’ - “Provide a range of free, adequate, safe, and suitable period products in all educational publicly-funded settings (including schools, colleges and HEIs), to ensure that no students are disadvantaged in their education by period poverty.” Whilst planning towards this goal continues, UCD can demonstrate leadership with colleagues in MTU and other HEIs providing products.  In 2021, the Scottish Parliament passed a bill to provide free period products to those in need.  This now places a legal duty to make period products available throughout Scotland to all those who need them, with schools identified for initial rollout (MTU:2021). 

The University is committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated and everyone is treated fairly. Menstruation-related barriers to school, work and other activities perpetuate gender inequalities. Achieving equality for all genders is the key objective of UCD’s Gender Equality Action Plan 2020 – 2024. This includes ensuring that our students are fully supported to carry out their studies in an equitable environment and are not disadvantaged in any way. UCD’s EDI Strategy 2021 - 2024 makes a commitment to tackling the period poverty issue and includes a specific action as follows: “Identify how UCD can tackle the period poverty issue for students”.  The EDI Strategy and Gender Equality Action Plan both support a key objective of the University Strategy to “attract, retain and develop an excellent and diverse cohort of students, faculty and staff”.

The Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty places an obligation on all public sector bodies to have due regard to the need to the elimination of discrimination, promotion of equality of opportunity and the protection of human rights. Meeting the hygiene needs of all adolescent girls is a fundamental issue of human rights, dignity, and public health

The promotion of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion concerns all of us and is the responsibility of all members of our community, in order to create a safe and welcoming environment where everyone can contribute and reach their full potential.

UN SDG

UCD is committed to the UN SDGs, the first of which that was written was that of eliminating poverty. Period poverty stems from overall Poverty, we can help combat this in a small way. If a student risks missing class due to lack of accessible period products and facilities, it creates an unnecessary inequality; we can mitigate this impact with free provision.

During this process sustainability of the products that are given out is something that has been investigated. Many of the tampons and pads are filled with plastic which is single use. With thousands of people who menstratute this adds to the global health problem of plastic pollution. By providing sustainable period products (and visibly highlighting the purposeful nature of sustainable procurement), UCD’s leadership for care of people and planet is demonstrated in a tangible way. 

UCD students and staff have been highlighting this issue for over four years. UCD students and staff, through UCD In The Community, UCDSU and UCD societies, have partnered with Homeless Period Ireland to collect products on Belfield campus, one of the largest public sector organisations practically supporting the HPU. Recognizing the societal impact of period poverty, UCD’s student and staff community have shown leadership in Ireland’s early public conversations about this intersectional issue. Despite Covid-19’s impact, UCD students and staff still helped this cause. In October 2018 & 2019 and March 2021 & 2022 UCD Mature Students’ Society  with the Students Union raised awareness, money and products for Homeless Period Ireland. They campaigned over 3 days on both occasions. 

UCDSU and UCD Library piloted free provision of period products in the James Joyce Library and CD Student Centre between October to present. In September 2021 UCDSU brought a submission to UMTSEG to propose extension of this provision. This submission was welcomed by members of the committee, with the recommendation to commence a small working group to look at the potential of rolling out free period products across the University campus.  This group has a range of interested members; UCDSU, UCD Management, UCD Library, Estates, and EDI have collaborated on planning to date.

Currently, we have 8 machines on campus, six in the James Joyce Library and two at the Student Centre. The following figures are available for mid-October-December 2021 and mid-January - end of March 2022, including two-week term break.

Over the course of our pilots from mid-October to December we gave out 130 packets of tampons which had 16 tampons in them which means 2,080 single tampons were given out in three months.  From October to December 2021, there were 129 packets of 12 pads, 1548 single pads in total.

The usage of products has increased particularly from January to March 2022, including a two-week midterm break. 101 packets of tampons were taken, meaning 1,616 single tampons given out giving an overall total of 6 months is 3696 tampons. 124 packets of pads from mid January to March 2022 including a two-week term break, 1488 with a total of 3,036 for those months. 



Contact UCD Equality Diversity and Inclusion

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
E: edi@ucd.ie