The campaign to provide free sanitary products to students across Scotland will soon reach its fourth month of implementation. With the introduction of an additional product on November 12, 2018, at the University of Edinburgh, Moon Cups have also been included as a more environmentally friendly option aside from the tampons and pads already available.
Andy Shanks, director of Student Wellbeing at the university, has been the coordinator of the group implementing the Scottish Government’s Access to Free Sanitary Products initiative, alongside the Edinburgh University Students’ Association and several academic departments. Shanks informed The Student that the group spearheading the initiative is “working with our supplier to introduce additional organic, sustainable products for students.”
Shanks told The Student in October that “the project has been received very well across the university — we have over 30 supply points for free sanitary products within the university estate, which makes the products accessible for all students.” In November, he followed this up by saying that the initiative is “in the process of setting up a further 28 access points to move us towards full coverage of the university estate.”
Esme Allman, Women’s Officer for the Students’ Association, was similarly positive about the initiative’s implementation over the past months, stating to The Student that “The free sanitary product initiative is fantastic and is working very well. I commend the Sabbatical Officers who implemented the initiative as it’s a wicked first step.”
This positivity is supported by feedback received by Shanks, who claimed that comments had included statements such as “great! We don’t need to go to the supermarket to buy our own products,” “this is a really great initiative – well done Edinburgh University” and “just loving how we can now have free access to sanitary provisions.”
The importance of free sanitary products being provided to students was also highlighted by Allman, who stated that “it’s incredibly beneficial for those I represent in the Women’s Campaign, as quite honestly having your period can be more than a bloody inconvenience. The price of sanitary products can be inaccessible to many of us period-having [people] and having to decide that you’ll compromise on food or drink so you can afford to have your period in the least uncomfortable, painless way is ridiculous.”
Referring to the five per cent Value-Added Tax (VAT) applied to sanitary products, including tampons, sanitary towels, panty liners and some maternity pads, Allman said of the initiative “let’s remember that it is only a plaster on a wider issue. Sanitary products are still taxed and are largely inaccessible to many people here in the UK. Free sanitary products for all is the way forward.”
European Union regulations class sanitary products as a ‘luxury good’, meaning that VAT must be applied. Campaigners against such a tax have claimed that it leads to ‘period poverty’, meaning that people who cannot afford to pay for sanitary products must often stay at home during menstruation. A survey by Young Scot found that a quarter of young people at school, college or university had had trouble accessing sanitary products. Therefore, the University of Edinburgh’s dedication to further access to free sanitary products for all those who need it is a successful step towards recognising deeper issues in terms of inaccessibility for women around the United Kingdom.
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