Better design, better periods?

You know the drill – you are on your period and need to change your pad, tampon or period product of choice. Maybe you’re at work, at school, a restaurant or another public place, and you don’t want everyone to know you’re on your period. Do you:

a) discreetly carry your bag to the toilet,

b) slip a tampon up your sleeve,

c) grab your pretty pouch full of your kit like it’s a purse and slide off to the loo?

But what if there was another option?

In the last few years a movement has gained traction that aims to de-stigmatise periods: baskets of period products have emerged in workplace bathrooms, often organised by staff and operating a give when you can take when you need system; period products have been made freely available to schools and colleges by the government; and campaigns such as Bloody Good Period’s ‘Walk of no shame’ are working to end the shame of having a period.

Yet, for a product that is as necessary as toilet paper for menstruating people, we should also be seeking solutions at design level. There are emerging products becoming available that can tackle the shame and stigma around periods through better design, as well as further tackling period poverty by making products free and available in toilet cubicles everywhere.

https://www.initial.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Vending-in-Cubical.jpg
Initial’s in-cubicle dispenser

Take hygiene services company Initial. It has developed an in-cubicle dispenser for tampons and pads that is discreet looking and easy to use. Much like a toilet paper dispenser, it hangs on the wall of any toilet and has a full range of product refills to be used privately in-cubicle.

It also has a charitable link, partnering with Freedom4Girls and donating £5 from each sale to the charity to support women and girls in the UK that are struggling to afford period products.

There are other organisations working to design effective solutions to the problem, for example a student collective at Edinburgh Napier’s School of Arts and Creative Industries has worked with Hey Girls to design an in-cubicle wall mounted or free standing product dispenser.

Imagine being able to go to the toilet and knowing that there are products readily available for you, just as there is toilet paper. No need to feel any embarrassment about taking from a basket, no need for elaborate hiding, no need to ask a stranger when you get caught short. Your period is thought of and accounted for at design level in public and private spaces.

And these product dispensers tackle more than just stigma. If they were publicly available everywhere from shopping centres to schools, we would be providing people experiencing period poverty with a real chance to manage their periods discretely and hygienically. Dispensers work hand in hand with existing measures such as hygiene banks and drop-ins to give people as many opportunities to access the products they need when menstruating.

We should have access to discreet and easy ways to access period products, without experiencing shame or stigma. We wouldn’t want a world without free toilet paper, so why do we accept a world without freely available period products? 

Do you think period product dispensers are a good idea? Tell us what you think!

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