OUSU to subsidise sanitary products

OUSU has announced that it will be launching a new scheme to provide sanitary products such as mooncups, sanitary towels, tampons, and panty liners to common rooms at or below cost price, in the same manner as the existing condom scheme.

The launch of the new scheme has been scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th, and the products will be available to buy through OUSU at the beginning of Trinity.

Women’s, Equalities, and Welfare Officers will now be able to order sanitary products directly through OUSU, in the same way that condoms are currently provided to JCRS. Although many colleges currently do provide subsidised sanitary products, they were previously purchased and reimbursed by college. This will absorb the tax on sanitary products, which is currently five per cent. This tax on sanitary products, which was lowered from the standard rate of VAT in 2000, has recently become a high-profile issue. A Change.org petition asking George Osborne to ‘Stop Taxing Periods. Period.’ has gathered almost 200,000 signatures.

Rachel Besenyei, a second year PPE student at Wadham who worked on rolling out the scheme, commented, “It’s really encouraging that the University are taking positive steps to make sanitary products more affordable for students. These items are necessities, not luxuries, so it seems only fair to make them available in a similar manner to condoms.”

One aspect of the scheme that its organisers are particularly keen to push is the provision of mooncups in all colleges. A mooncup is a small silicone cup used to collect menstrual blood. They can be re-used over many years, making them a much greener and cheaper alternative to traditional sanitary products. On average, a person who menstruates will use 11,000 sanitary items during their lifetime, spending around £90 a year.

Anna Bradshaw, OUSU VP for Women, told Cherwell, “The inclusion of mooncups in the scheme is related both to OUSU’s ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability and to a real demand for them in the student body, as reported to us by Welfare and Women’s Officers in Common Rooms.

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“I’m particularly pleased that the University will reduce the cost of mooncups. Whilst incredibly environmentally friendly and more cost-effective than conventional sanitary products, these can be too costly for students to invest in. I hope the scheme encourages more students to see them as a viable (and indeed superior) alternative to disposable sanitary products such as tampons or pads.”

Although mooncups are subsidised in the same manner as other products, the organisers of the scheme also hope that colleges could introduce a system where colleges could provide a limited number of mooncups for free to students on a balloted basis.

Rose Lyddon, Wadham SU Women’s Officer, also welcomed the impact that the new system would have on those who require sanitary products in college. She commented, “The provision of sanitary items at Wadham has made a big difference to students, particularly people with disabilities, for whom getting to the shops is difficult. I’m really happy to see OUSU taking some of the burden off college SUs in funding vital services.”