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Should period care be free in public washrooms?

Yes! You're not expected to bring toilet paper with you. Here's how joni's working with organizations to bring menstrual products to a washroom near you.

You’re out in public and you suddenly get that feeling. You just know you have your period. You high-tail it to the washroom. Good news: there’s a period product dispenser. Bad news: it only takes quarters. Who carries quarters or any change for that matter? You makeshift a pad with a wad of toilet paper—at least that’s free! It will work long enough for you to run home for period care.


Is this a familiar story? It shouldn’t be but it’s likely. According to Free the Tampons (2013), 86% have been caught without care on hand when their period starts when out in public. While 62% go buy supplies, 34% go home. And those machines? 48% use them but only 8% said they always work—making them an unreliable solution.


“Period care vending machines in washrooms are not new but, like the industry, the world has changed but the product has not,” said Linda Biggs, joni co-founder. “No one carries around quarters anymore, and considering we don’t request payment for bodily functions like urinating, menstrual products also need to be provided.”

To help organizations bring free menstrual care into their washrooms, we developed a special electronic machine for dispensing free menstrual care products that we’re super excited about. But first, let’s delve into the huge impact a lack of period care access makes in schools and workplaces—and how easy it is to make a positive change! Because free menstrual care helps to create equal opportunities.


Period care gets schooled: The benefits of free menstrual products at post-secondary institutions


joni's free-vend period care dispensers is popular with post-secondary institutions, such as Camosun College in Victoria, BC, and Sheridan College in Oakville, ON. When faced with a sudden need for period care, students at these institutions can simply visit the nearest washroom and retrieve free period care with dignity from a battery-operated machine or open acrylic dispenser on the wall.


While Ontario and British Columbia have introduced free menstrual care at public high schools, it is not yet mandatory for post-secondary institutions. According to Eunice Oladejo, president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, this places a burden on students and disproportionately affects some student groups more than others, especially those who are racialized and those with disabilities.


In 2018, 14% of students missed school due to the lack of period care access, resulting in missed scholastic opportunities and reduced graduation rates. Lack of period care also inhibits participation in school activities, from social clubs to sports activities.


“This results not only in loss of productivity, engagement, opportunity, and income but also affects social presence, mental health, and in many cases even physical health due to infections such as UTI and rashes,” explained Jayesh Vekariya, joni co-founder.

Installing joni free period care vending machines can reduce all these negative impacts of period inequality.


Equal opportunity workplaces: The positive effects of free menstrual care in the workplace


Providing free period care within the workplace is also an important initiative. Work absences due to lack of period care impact wages, dependents, and employee morale.


Providing free period care is a win-win situation, as they say in the business world. In addition to building goodwill with employees, employers benefit from lower absenteeism, better staff retention, and increased productivity.


“We see the biggest impact here with organizations that employ entry-level workers like fast-food chains where someone who makes minimum wage could spend up to 7% of their income on period care alone,” said Linda.

Let’s set the scene: you’re the manager of a small restaurant with a staff of 10, micromanaging operations to the last penny, or perhaps a fast food restaurant, where the margins are tight and so are the wages. The staffing schedule is complicated, especially when finding staff is at a premium. Then, on a busy Saturday, one of your employees leaves halfway through their shift due to an unexpected period. Because of social stigmas, they may not tell you or even ask coworkers for supplies. Now you’re down one employee—who loses their wages—and the rest of your staff is stressed. And you’re stressed, too—all for a problem that could have been so easily solved for just a few pennies.


As Biggs explains, free period care in workplace washrooms also has a larger societal impact.


“Organizations providing period care to their employees normalize menstruation and remove the shame and stigma of going without or being caught off guard. We would never consider bathrooms that didn’t provide toilet paper. We feel the same needs to be considered for period care. Period equity takes a village and we’re looking for organizations that want to help build that village with us.”

joni is excited to see businesses take up the period equity cause, such as KWENCH and And-Co. Both co-working spaces have adopted joni’s countertop dispensers (perfect for smaller washrooms), sending the message that they’re progressive organizations that value their employees and clientele, and support equal opportunities in the process.


What’s so great about joni dispensers? Wholesale organic period care and dispensers make period equity initiatives easy for organizations.


We have achieved over-the-moon levels of excitement for our new joni dispensers because not only are they beautiful (if we do say so ourselves) but because they’re aligned with our values. Our mission is to make menstrual equity possible. These dispensers are one more way we can help organizations toward that end. But there’s one surprising element about their design that might shock you.




joni dispensers are future-forward by design. Jayesh explains this the best. "Dispensers in most public washrooms require coins and they’re designed to fit specific, size, shape, and brand. This restricts menstrual products and packaging innovation since they’re required to fit within specific dimensions to fit machines, which are too costly to replace especially at an institutional level."


"In contrast—in addition to dispensing free products—our machines come from a place of innovation. Any product of any design can be used in our dispensers, not only joni products. This creates a longer lifespan for the machine, less waste, and supports future innovation with menstrual products that are not subjected to fit specific dimensions to work with the machine.”

Jayesh isn’t worried about organizations buying joni dispensers and filling them with other products because that’s not the goal of the machine. The goal is simply period equity.


Won't people take advantage of free period care? Creating free waste-free period care opportunities.


Will people take more than they need? That’s one of the first questions about free period care. Is it possible? Of course. Is it likely? Frankly, no. From what we’ve experienced and from speaking to other organizations, when people are provided with free period care, there’s no need to take more than they need, because it’s there when they need it again. There is no underground market for period care products.

We also get asked about reusable period care products. We love ‘em! In fact, we've teamed up with Aisle to offer organizations reusable options for non-placed-based menstrual care. Together, we support bodily agency and the right to choose the type of products that work best for each individual body.


When it comes to being caught without products on hand, onsite disposable period care is essential. That’s why we made better disposable menstrual care that’s biodegradable by 94% within 12 months, made with certified organic ingredients, and free from nasty chemicals and fragrances. Supplying free joni products is a sustainable and convenient option.


The future of period care looks free


It’s exciting to see the Canadian government commit to gender equality in Canada in a statement released in May 2022. The Honourable Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, and Parliamentary Secretary Jenna Sudds acknowledged that millions of people experience stigma in Canada simply because they menstruate—and yet access to menstrual products is a basic necessity and part of sexual and reproductive rights. The statement was backed up with $25 million to establish a national pilot for the Menstrual Equity Fund to “make menstrual products available to people who struggle to afford them.” Can we get a heck yeah?!


The number of organizations that recognize free period care is equivalent to providing equal opportunities is proliferating. At joni alone, we expect to see 1,000 of our free-vend dispensers across the country by the end of 2023—and we hope you’ll see one in a washroom near you soon! In the meantime, forward this blog post to your workplace’s decision maker or your school’s student alliance. If that person is you, what are you waiting for? While our electronic dispensers are swanky, we also have open-wall dispensers and countertop dispensers. Whatever you need, we got you. Period equity starts now—let’s go!


Read more about how to make your organization period friendly and get a hold of us at hello@getjoni.com for more information.

 

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