Stomach bloating, back aches and sporadic cramps. An unexpected visit from Mother Nature can make you feel insecure. You turn to a friend, hoping she has an extra pad or tampon for you to discreetly tuck away as you make your way to the bathroom.
Marilyn Villalba has frequently witnessed her fellow classmates go through this scenario, which is why she started to carry around a bag full of pads and tampons during her junior year of high school.
“I knew people had been doing this forever,” Villalba said. “They hide their products, so I just came up with the idea when I got a bag for Christmas. Every time someone asks, ‘Do you have something?’ I just give them the bag and say, ‘Take what you need and bring it back.’”
“The whole goal is to give empowerment to the idea that we get a period and we shouldn’t continue to feel oppressed or bothered because of a simple bodily function.”
Villalba, a criminology and justice major, is working on her senior capstone project called #IAmAMenstruator. The inspiration for the idea struck when she started noticing that the pad and tampon dispensaries in the campus bathrooms were being removed.
Facilities Management does not stock menstrual products in the bathroom dispensaries and do not
keep track of which bathrooms still have them. The University Center does however, have a list of which bathrooms have dispensaries but have no records of when they are or aren’t being restocked. Several attempts to reach Facilities Management and the University Center were made but no response was given.
Currently, Villalba is in the research stage of her project and just received approval from the Institutional
Review Board to conduct surveys and interviews. She created an Instagram page called @iamamenstruator to promote a period positive dialogue.
“The whole goal is to give empowerment to the idea that we get a period and we shouldn’t continue to feel oppressed or bothered because of a simple bodily function,” Villalba said. “So we are trying to make it as inclusive as possible by moving away from the language, ‘women who menstruate’ to ‘people who menstruate’ to ‘menstruators.’”
Villalba has been giving out free menstrual products that she has paid out of her own pocket, which is why she has started a GoFundMe page and is also looking for sponsors.
Menstrual Resources at HSU
The Women’s Resource Center (WRC) and the Peer Health Education Center currently provide free menstrual products. According to Justine Valverde, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the WRC, they are accepting student suggestions on how to better accommodate their needs.
“We have free pads, tampons, DivaCups, snacks, and a heating pad for students to come in and use,” Valverde said. “We want to hear what students want and get more ideas on resources for all students.”
Campus Health Educator Ravin Craig and Associated Students are also working on a project to put free menstrual products in bathrooms on campus within the next couple of weeks.
“We have done some research and asked for money from [Associated Students],” Craig said. “We have a couple thousand dollars to pilot the project to buy some tampons and pads, and put them in some of the most heavily used bathrooms on campus.”
Villalba plans to submit her research findings to HSU’s president and provost as well as present it at this year’s annual ideaFest on April 19. “What I want for people is, I want them to stop feeling discouraged or embarrassed about something our bodies have to go through regularly,” Villalba said. “I want people to challenge themselves and at least become comfortable with the idea of talking about it.”
Anyone interested in participating in the project or getting more information can contact Villalba by email at mev148@humboldt. edu.