Sheridan Student Union shares its process on how to bring a free menstrual product program to your post-secondary institution with joni.
The problem facing Sheridan students was not a unique one. A 2018 gender study revealed that 70% of Canadians under 25 years of age who menstruate have missed school, work, or social activities because of their period (PLAN Canada). The Sheridan Student Union identified a simple solution: student access to free menstrual care products. While the solution was simple, the path to their end goal had some obstacles and important considerations. We caught up with the Sheridan Student Union who shared their process with us to help other student unions in Canada how to determine exactly what their needs are at their post-secondary institution and how to navigate the system to bring sustainable period care into their washrooms—and how joni’s wholesale period care and dispensers fit the bill for their specific needs.
The Post-Secondary Period Care Problem
Located in Brampton (Oakville and Mississauga), Ontario, Sheridan College is one of Ontario’s leading post-secondary institutions serving thousands of students annually. It’s not uncommon that universities and colleges can overlook period equity as an issue because stigmas prevent administrations from talking about it and raising the issue. The reality is that period care products place financial distress on many students who menstruate, and even financially stable students can be caught off guard without period care on hand. The result of both scenarios is the same: missed classes, lower grades, and, in turn, fewer graduation opportunities. Simply by being proactive and providing period care, institutions can level the playing field.
The Steps to Post-Secondary Period Care
How does a university or college go about implementing a free menstrual care program? Where do they start? It’s common for student unions to champion the cause. Sheridan Student Union broke it down into three main steps:
First, SSU recommends exploring what your student body’s specific period care needs are and determining what type of products can serve the most students. For students, they decided to offer both disposable pads and tampons for urgent on-site care. To support their sustainability goals, they wanted to find products that were also biodegradable.
Next, Sheridan Student Union began their search for products that could meet their goals.
Finally, they explored all the ways they could provide products to their students; such as directly from the Student Union office or washrooms
Post-Secondary Period Care Challenges
The main challenges SSU faced was in finding the period care products that would meet their sustainability goals, could supply enough product, and had a solution for getting products into the student hands that need them. SSU met with several companies and explained their needs.
An Award-winning Solution
Understanding Sheridan Student Union’s needs was a game-changer for joni. “When we met with SSU, we were in the middle of designing our own dispenser for institutions and it helped us validate the huge problem in the industry joni is building a solution for. In the 30-plus years dispensers have been in use, there has been no innovation and the machines themselves don’t support innovation. So we created a future-forward machine that also guards against becoming obsolete,” said joni co-founder and co-ceo Jayesh Vekeriya.
Presently, dispensers in public washrooms are monopolized and made for specific petroleum-based conventional products with specific dimensions, stunting innovation because any change to products requires that machines be replaced, costing upwards of $1200 per unit. Instead, joni’s battery-operated free-vend menstrual care dispensers feature a ground-breaking adjustable internal chamber that supports future joni product innovation as products become more innovative and sustainable. This solution addresses the financial distress and stigma associated with period care and also helps reduce waste and promote sustainability.
The SSU hopes that this initiative will make period care more accessible to students and help to erase the stigma surrounding menstruation. They plan to measure the success of the program based on usage and engagement with the service. They also hope to receive feedback from students on the effectiveness of the program, which they will use to make improvements in the future.
The Sheridan Student Union boldly recognized the importance of addressing period poverty and financial distress among their student body. Instead of waiting for a solution to come to them, they took a proactive approach to find a solution that aligned with their values of sustainability and accessibility. By partnering with joni and installing dispensers throughout their campus, the SSU is leading the way in ensuring period care is a basic right and necessity for all students. By sharing Sheridan Student Union's process, we hope to inspire other student unions to take up the mantle and work towards bringing period care solutions to their student body to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.