What is period dignity?
The Welsh Government Period Dignity campaign aims to achieve a lot more than tackling period poverty. Whilst period dignity prioritises putting an end to period poverty, by providing access to period products, this should also be possible in a safe and dignified way. The campaign also aims to improve the experiences for those who menstruate and the impact of all future periods on their life, through combating the silence surrounding periods, educating about menstruation and management choices and diminishing the associated stigma.
Period Dignity at Cardiff University Students’ Union
At Cardiff Students’ Union, we are committed to period dignity. We believe that everyone should have access to period products whenever they are needed, in a safe and dignified way, and we aim to provide free sustainable period products, alongside information and guidance on menstrual health and dignity, to the students of Cardiff University.
Aims of period dignity:
- Provide period products to those who are unable to access them
- Remove the stigma surrounding periods and normalise menstruation
- Educate and empower all students to understand menstruation
- Promote sustainable products to students
- Ensure the dignity for all of those who menstruate across campus
Free period product collection points
- Welcome Centre, 2nd Floor SU building
- Toilets, 3rd Floor SU building
- Student Advice, 3rd Floor SU Building
- The Hub, Heath Park Campus
- Student Advice, 3rd Floor SU Building
On average, a person who menstruates will have 450 periods within their lifetime, equating to around 10 years. Despite this, conversation about periods is avoided and can cause many to feel embarrassed or ashamed. “Time of the month”, “female troubles”, “Aunt Flo”, “mother nature” and “lady business” are all common euphemisms used to avoid saying the word “period”. While these can make it easier to talk openly about our periods, we need to be careful as these terms can contribute to reinforcing the stigma that periods are shameful and something to be hidden.
The role of companies providing period products also contributes to the stigma surrounding menstruation. Naming period products ‘sanitary products’, with messages such as ‘discreet’, ‘shhh’ and ‘whisper’ alongside the depiction of blood with blue liquid, reinforces the attitudes that periods are dirty and should be kept a secret.
In this day and age, why is there still such a stigma surrounding menstruation and periods? This stigma can lead to those who menstruate experiencing disadvantage in many areas of their lives. This can include:
- Lack of education about menstruation can impact future sexual and reproductive health.
- Negative attitudes can affect motivation to study, self-esteem and self-worth, potentially leading to lower ambitions and career expectations.
- The lack of open conversation about periods can lead to a lack of knowledge of options of period management
- A lack of information about reusable products and how to use them continues the negative impact on the environment cause by single-use disposable products
- Uncertainty about what is ‘normal’ and what isn’t can lead to delayed or missed diagnoses of some serious conditions, including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and gynaecological cancers.
- A lack of awareness of the affects the menstrual cycle can have on other chronic health conditions, including anxiety, asthma, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and epilepsy
- Disruption to work and careers, in particular those with heavy periods or gynaecological conditions
- Access to menstrual products for those living in poverty
Periods are normal and natural, and we will all either experience them ourselves or know someone that does. Periods are not dirty, they are not something to be hidden, and they are not something to be ashamed of. People who menstruate should be able to do so without worry, embarrassment or detriment.
What does it mean for Cardiff University students?
We never want any student to feel like they cannot access the products they need to be able to manage their periods. This is why we have a number of access points around campus where you can pick up some tampons or period pads (see above). These will be situated in gender neutral areas so all those who menstruate will be able to access products and manage their periods with dignity.
Additionally, to promote the use of more environmentally friendly period management, menstrual cups are available to collect free from Student Advice (3rd floor of the Students’ Union). These will be provided alongside information of how they should be used.
The stigma and silence surrounding periods results in a lack of menstruation education. This means people are less likely to understand menstruation and be able to make choices about their period management.
Lack of education has led to those who menstruate being unaware of what is ‘normal’. Whilst periods are and should be considered ‘normal’, each person’s ‘normal’ may be slightly different and can vary in a few different ways:
- Regular or irregular cycles
- Differing levels of pain
- Heavier or lighter flows
- Longer or shorter periods
- Longer or shorter cycles
What if my period doesn’t seem normal?
Whilst we believe periods should be normalised, sometimes people’s experiences of periods are not ‘normal’ and need to be checked by a medical professional. A lack of knowledge and education of what counts as ‘normal’ in terms of periods and menstrual health can lead to delayed or missed diagnoses of serious conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), or gynaecological cancers.
If you are ever concerned, experience considerable pain or notice changes in your period, book an appointment with your GP.
There are different options available to manage periods. It is your choice which product you use; decided which is best for you and your body.
- Menstrual pads
- Menstrual discs
- Reusable menstrual pads
- Menstrual cups
- Period pants
- Menstrual sponge
Whilst reusable products have a greater upfront cost, they can be used again and again for much longer (up to 10 years for menstrual cups), so can save a significant amount of money in the long run.
Every period, along with our choice of period management, has an impact on the environment, and we believe it is vital that we all do our best to protect the planet. As more than a third of people are unaware of the environmental impacts of their period management choices, it is an issue that we all need to think, talk and learn more about. With over 45 billion period products disposed of globally each year, we can make a difference by making small changes.
The disposal of single-use menstrual products has a negative impact on the environment, with over 200,000 tonnes of waste generated globally, each year. Due to the lifespan of reusable period products, they have a much lower environmental impact. For each person, making the change to reusable products can reduce one truckload of waste every 10 years.
Avoid the plastics
Most period products use plastic, whether this is the plastic applicators of tampons, the plastic layer on pads, or the packaging they come in. Some brands now offer plastic-free tampon and pad options, wrapped in compostable film. It is also possible to help the environment by choosing organic cotton period products. These reduce pollution as products are biodegradable, as well as reducing the number of pesticides in the environment.
While periods are natural and period management is essential, there are unnatural consequences to the environment. By choosing reusable, plastic-free and/or organic cotton products, we can reduce the environmental impact that our period management will have.
Who are TOTM?
We have partnered with TOTM to provide the students of Cardiff University with access to and a choice of period management products. TOTM offer planet-friendly period care, avoiding the use of unnecessary plastic, chemicals, dyes or fragrance. They also share in our view that periods are normal and a natural part of life. By using their voice and community, they are aiming to break down the stigma surrounding periods and challenge the negative attitudes that exist.
- TOTM’s products are made from 100% organic cotton
- All their packaging is plastic free – including tampons wrappers which are paper wrapped, and pads are wrapped in OK compost certified biofilm
- They only use biodegradable cardboard applicators with their tampons – no plastic or “bioplastic” applicators which don’t degrade
- All their products are sourced from the EU from a hydropowered facility
- TOTM’s brand and products are certified as Carbon Neutral
- All their products are vegan and not tested on animals
- They give back to Endometriosis UK and Binti International as their charity partners
- TOTM are pending B-Corp certification – committing to having purpose and a positive impact on people and planet as a business
- Visit https://www.totm.com/ for more info or to explore TOTM’s products.
Contact Student Advice
+44 (0)2920 781410