It’s time for the DSU to provide free sanitary items for girls

Other unis do it, so why not ours?


Tampons should be free at the DSU, and it’s a farce that they aren’t already.

Being a student isn’t cheap, even more so when you’re dishing out hundreds of pounds a year on a bodily function, which, quite frankly you could really do without.

Last month, our PM, David Cameron, announced that the barmy ‘tampon tax’, essentially a tax on being a woman, would be lifted.

Although this was a long time coming, it still shouldn’t distract us from a larger issue at hand – that half the population have to dish out their hard earned cash (which due to the gender pay gap, is generally less than the other 50%) due to an unavoidable biological phenomena every four weeks.

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In a time where many of us pride ourselves in being fully open about the disadvantages that women have in society, it is disappointing that sanitary products are still seen by many as a product which women have to work to obtain.

The DSU prides itself on providing condoms for whomever want them. Why should sanitary items, an equally essential product for many, be any different?

In research from the past year, it is estimated that women spend £492 annually on different areas related to periods. From pain medication to new underwear and everything in between.

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When four out of five students say that they constantly worry about money, this is an expense better spent on food, accommodation, and pretty much anything else. Especially in a year where the University has unapologetically raised the accommodation cost of living in college.

When the Union has a recorded £237,982 of unrestricted funds in their reserves from the past financial year, there should be no excuse for the DSU to hide away from this issue.

In 2014 there were 17,505 students at Durham, 53% were women, so there were around 9,300 girls. If 10% needed 20 free tampons once a month, that’d be 223,200 tampons a year. A lot of cash (and tampons), right? Wrong. Bulk buying, a box of 20 costs £1.35, which would cost the DSU a mere £15,066. Peanuts, for an invaluable service.

There is also a precedent for this. Currently the student unions at Birmingham, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Leicester, Newcastle, Manchester, Plymouth, St. Andrews, Stirling and Sussex provide free sanitary products. Can we truly call ourselves a progressive uni if we are going to be left behind on such an important stumbling block to gender equality?

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There is already large support for this issue on campus. Catherine Braddock, who organised the “Giving: Strings Attached” campaign earlier in the year, helping to provide sanitary products to Durham’s homeless population, told The Tab:

“This is an issue which hasn’t received a lot of attention in the past but it’s a real problem for the women it affects. It’s been great to see schemes starting up which help to alleviate the problem and end the stigma surrounding periods.”

“Providing sanitary products for those that can’t afford them is a big help for people who are struggling and these campaigns answer a genuine need so it’s definitely something worth supporting.”

A spokesperson for Durham’s Feminist Society told The Tab:

“Sanitary products are a necessity for many students. If the DSU can provide free sexual health supplies, I see no reason for them not to provide sanitary items alongside these. It falls to institutions such as Students Unions to ensure anyone who needs sanitary products can access them.”

This is not a problem that 56% of the student population should have to deal with. Call on the Union to introduce a policy of providing sanitary products for all female students by signing The Tab’s petition here