Compensate disadvantages - address menstruation

Free menstrual products

The University of Bonn is now offering free menstrual products for students. The pilot phase of the project has successfully concluded and an extension of the project has been approved. The dispensers are going to be located in twenty-three selected restrooms at central locations.

An offer of the University of Bonn

By providing free menstrual products, the University of Bonn is helping to remove the taboo surrounding the topic, preventing period poverty and making an important contribution to the further implementation of educational equity.

Currently, you can find the products in seven women's restrooms in different university buildings. As a next step, the number of equipped toilets will be increased to 23. The dispensers contain tampons (size normal) and sanitary pads. The products are made of organic cotton and are free of chemicals, chlorine bleach and perfume. Menstruating students are welcome to use this service.

More information about the background of the offer can be found in our FAQ.

The survey was a success!

During the pilot phase in the summer semester of 2022, the General Students' Committee (AStA, short for ‘Allgemeiner Studierendenausschuss’ in German) of the University of Bonn conducted a survey to find out about the demand for free menstrual products. 93% of the participants were in favour of the provisioning of free menstrual products. 66% of the respondents said they had fewer worries about menstruation as a result of the offer.

The results of the survey can be found here:

Menstruationsboxen_BFro_004_a.jpg
Mr. Andraczek (AStA) and Prof. Dr. Förster (Vice Rectorate for Equal Opportunity and Diversity) present a dispenser for menstrual products. © Barbara Frommann / Universität Bonn

Menstrual products give students the opportunity to participate in everyday life at university. As a sign promoting equal opportunities, we therefore advocate for the free provision of hygiene products.

- Jonathan Andraczek, former chairman of the AStA of the University of Bonn

By offering free period products, we have taken a very practical approach to addressing period poverty and reducing social injustice.

- Prof. Dr. Irmgard Förster, Vice Rector for Equal Opportunity and Diversity

Note

Please take only as many items as you need. Please dispose of used period items in the bins provided.

A person is taking a sanitary pad from a dispenser box
© Barbara Frommann / Universität Bonn

Why are there free menstrual products in the restrooms now?

The products are hygiene items that, like toilet paper, are part of everyday use. Like toilet paper, hand soap, or paper towels, menstrual products should be available for menstruating students in the restrooms of university buildings so that they are not disadvantaged when visiting the university. In addition, the availability of menstrual products can help with some mental distress by preventing the fear of not having sanitary products available at the time needed.

Survey Plan International

Plan International conducted a nationwide (Germany) representative survey in 2021, which found that 23% of respondents perceive the purchase of menstrual products as a financial burden and 29% of respondents stated that they at times avoid going out while on their period because public toilets are too poorly equipped or dirty.

Study by the Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg

The Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg (german) conducted an online survey (german) within the university in September 2021, which analyzed the acceptance of an offer of free menstrual products and investigated a possible expectation towards such a provision. 35.1% of respondents indicated that they had sometimes needed menstrual products but did not have access to them while being at the univerity (see p.45). 88% of the respondent said they were afraid of an uncomfortable situation caused by a lack of menstrual products. The results of the study indicate an existing mental burden associated with the fear of not being able to ensure hygienic control of menstruation. This stress can be prevented by providing free menstrual products (see p.49).

Frequently Asked Questions

Students who are menstruating and for whom purchasing hygiene products each month is a financial burden may not want to leave the house during their period and thus may not be able to attend the university. Or, if the period occurs suddenly while attending college and the individual does not have any hygiene products with them, they must go home. Those who do not have the opportunity to handle the natural process of menstruation in a hygienic and non-hazardous way do not have the same access to education as a person who does not menstruate. And this is not in line with our idea of equity of opportunity. The university wants to address this inequity by now providing free menstrual supplies.

The offer is intended to de-taboo the topic of menstruation, but not to simplify it. Making menstrual items available is an important step the university can take. It's ought to prevent mental stress that can arise from the fear of a sudden occurrence of the period as well.

However, it does not overcome every disadvantage that menstruating people have compared to non-menstruating people. Severe period pain and other period side effects can also greatly impact university life.

When a menstruating person does not have the necessary financial means or it is a heavy financial burden to purchase suitable hygiene items, this is called "period poverty" (kinderschutzbund-berlin.de). According to utopia.de around 100,000 menstruating women in Germany are affected by period poverty.

The financial burden placed on students by their menstruation should not be underestimated. The offer of free menstrual products is intended to relieve students financially and prevent them from period poverty.

We want all menstruating people to be able to benefit from the offer. Therefore, men's toilets are also equipped with menstrual products. This way transgender, non-binary, genderqueer and intersex people are also given access to the free products.

As part of the expansion of the service, dispensers will also be installed in restrooms for the disabled.

Thus, barriers for all persons who may be affected by discrimination regarding menstruation and experience less visibility, will be further reduced.

The offer is primarily aimed at students, as they are most affected by period poverty and limited access to education. In the long term, we would advocate for the dispensers to be placed in more buildings so that the products can be used by students as well as staff.

In principle, the products in the dispensers are intended for all students who menstruate and just need a hygiene product. We ask all users to take out only as many items as they need at the moment and to dispose of them in the appropriate garbage cans after use.

If you find a dispenser empty, we ask you to support us and send an email to Sven Linke, head of cleaning/pest control and guarding, at linke@verwaltung.uni-bonn.de and to please indicate the location. 

Some other universities in Germany, for example the University of Potsdam (german), the University of Stuttgart (english) or the University of Marburg (german), offer free menstrual products in their restrooms as well. At the University of Marburg, the project is currently in the pilot phase.


Free menstrual products are currently located in these restrooms during the pilot project:


Contact

Avatar Kasper-Brötz

Sarah Kasper-Brötz

Advisor to the Vice Rectorate for Equal Opportunity and Diversity

+49 228 73 5886

Equal Opportunity and Diversity Unit

The Equal Opportunity and Diversity unit assists and advises the Rectorate on the (further) development of concepts and strategies for promoting equal opportunity and diversity.

Contact

+49 228 73 5818

chancengerechtigkeit@uni-bonn.de

Address

Poppelsdorfer Allee 24
53115 Bonn

AStA

The General Student Committee (AStA) represents the interests of all students at the University of Bonn.

Contact

+49 (0)228 73-7030

info@asta.uni-bonn.de

Address

AStA der Uni Bonn
Endenicher Allee 19 (Container)
53115 Bonn

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