Posted on Fri 17 Jun 2016 at 12:53 by Christopher Carter
The Students’ Union is here to serve students on a wide range of issues, and I’m proud to say that those issues now extend to menstruation and pregnancy testing.
If you are a student who has periods, I could bet on the fact that you have probably been caught short at least once in your life! Whether you simply left your menstrual care supplies at home, thought you had some in your bag or did not expect to come on when you did, we all end up in a panic at one stage or another. When this happens on campus, this can be even more of a worry.
Periods have been at the forefront of feminist campaigning for the past year since the launch of a national petition calling on the government to abolish the tampon tax. There have also been a great number of students’ unions setting up provisions to provide free period care over the past academic year. At Warwick, we have been fairly quiet on this issue until very recently: in February, the SU was involved in an NUS ‘Period Pride’ campaign aiming to destigmatise menstruation and campaign against the tampon tax.
More historically, Warwick has a great record on period-based activism. In 1982, feminist activists at Warwick SU passed into policy a motion which recognised the gendered burden that VAT imposed on people with periods. They resolved that VAT on sanitary protection ought to be abolished. While they may not have had much success in acting upon this nationally, it became an idea and a stance now firmly entrenched into the SU’s beliefs and policies. Further, in 1997 the Union Shop (which sadly does not exist anymore) resolved to sell these products without VAT. While we unfortunately cannot implement this policy in 2016 due to the absence of our own shop, we can at least lobby shops on campus to act ethically with regard to VAT exemptions, and provide free products in the Union wherever our budget permits.
In Term 2, I extended these historical policies by proposing a motion to the All Student Meeting concerned with the accessibility of menstrual care products on our own campus. This policy mandated the SU to provide free products in the Union in the event that a student is caught short and in need of emergency provisions. The policy also reaffirmed the fact that VAT on tampons and towels is an unfair burden, and that Warwick Retail outlets and M. W. Phillips should not charge VAT on these products. Finally, the policy mandated the Welfare & Campaigns and Democracy & Development Officers to lobby Warwick Accommodation to provide tax-free protection in on-campus accommodation.
While the final two parts of the motion are yet to bear fruit, we have been successful in attaining money from the SU to fund a supply of menstrual care products that students can access for free if they are caught short. You can help us to spend that money effectively by answering the following question: if you were to come to the Union for emergency menstrual care provisions, would you ask for a towel, tampon or other? Send us your answer here: www.warwicksu.com/campaigning/campaigns/menstrual-care-products/
While this is a great win, don’t look away yet as there’s more news! As Women’s Officer, I am allotted an annual budget to spend on my campaigns and caucus. Coming into Term 3, I had a surplus of £90 in my budget and little left in the calendar to spend it on. I have therefore decided to invest this money into more free products, this time in the form of pregnancy tests. I decided to spend the money in this way because I believe that it is important to provide students with a secure space in the SU where, in a time of uncertainty and panic, you are able to access such tests quickly and without cost. These have now arrived, each test complete with instructions on the back of the packet - we can arrange for any student to pick one of these up non-judgementally and/or anonymously from SUHQ by emailing either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For your information, the SU also has policy which mandates the Welfare Officer to lobby the university for a ‘Pregnant Students Fund’, and for the Union to provide impartial advice on pregnancy, maternity and abortion.
If you are caught short and in need of condoms, menstrual care products or pregnancy tests, then please know that your Students’ Union is here to help.
Please note: pregnancy tests and condoms are available immediately. However, menstrual care products have not yet been stocked and will be available as soon as possible. I will notify students when this is the case on this blog and elsewhere!
Support and Contacts
* British Pregnancy Advisory Service – 03457 30 40 30
* University of Warwick Health Centre – 024 7652 4888
* Coventry Walk-in and Healthcare Centre - 0300 200 0060
* Students’ Union Advice Centre – 024 7657 2824