Western provides $800K in funding for 'Free the Dot' program

After months of advocacy, Western’s University Student Council (USC) has announced that the school will provide $800,000 in funding for the ‘Free the Dot’ program which provides free menstrual products to students.

The ‘Free the Dot’ program gives students access to free pads, tampons, liners, condoms, menstrual cups, contraceptives  and dental dams.

“Ensuring that menstrual products are free and accessible to students who need them will reduce financial and social barriers to education that menstruators experience and build a culture where we can all feel empowered to move through spaces on campus with a sense of belonging,” said Ziyana Kotadia, the VP of university affairs at USC.

For convenience, students will have the option to have these products delivered to their homes. They will also have access to these products at all washrooms in the University Community Centre (UCC).

 “We’re hearing that a lot of students have had to choose between period products or groceries. Now that’s not a concern in the way that it has been in the past,” said Maddie Osbourne, VP student support and programming.

According to the USC, this is the first time that Western University has paid for free menstrual products for students.

USC first began a pilot project in March 2019 in order to provide students with menstrual products. This allowed students to give feedback, thus helping to shape 'Free the Dot.'

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of USC decided to offer a delivery service to students as many were participating in virtual learning.

“Within five hours of launching the program in early January we had over 600 students reaching out for support and within a few days we had thousands of students contact us,” said Osbourne.

"From student petitions to working with facilities management for identifying buildings for a pilot project, to including these recommendations in three separate advocacy submissions, have really paid off,” said Kotadia. “Menstrual products are a necessity rather than a luxury, and so to see Western recognize that is huge."

For many people at Western, the news is a sign of progress and a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s really awesome to know that if I find myself in a place where I need a tampon, it’s accessible to students, and it’s really empowering to know that I don’t have to choose between being late for class and finding a tampon,” said student Cameron Cawston.

The funding will be given over two years in order to continue USC’s program throughout the campus.

“It’s great to see,” said student Eunice Oladejo. “I know this is a program that exists on a lot of other campuses as well. So it just shows how crucial this is for students. Period poverty and access to menstrual products is a human right.