Meghan Kennedy, an advertising and marketing communications management student, stands next to a Flow menstrual product dispenser. Photo credit: Kate Playfair

Algonquin College has partnered with Citron Hygiene to supply free menstrual products to students at the Ottawa campus.

The products are being provided by Aunt Flow, a company dedicated to providing away-from-home menstrual products to those who need them, and dispensers are currently being installed in washrooms across campus.

Dispensers are available in 43 washrooms on campus, including gender-neutral washrooms and some men’s washrooms. If there is a washroom without a dispenser, a “Go with the Flow” QR code placed in every washroom mirror will provide students with the locations of the dispensers.

Algonquin College is independently financing the products and has become one of the 17 post-secondary institutions in Canada to provide free menstrual products to students. The college didn’t have an exact cost; it’s still determining how many products it needs to purchase on a monthly basis.

The installation of the dispensers has been met with positive feedback from the students.

“I think it’s necessary,” said Emma Ratz, 18, who’s in the social service worker program. “I don’t think that those are things women should have to pay for, because we don’t really have an option to have our period.”

“It’s private,” said Ratz. “I know that there’s pads and tampons in, like, health services and certain offices, but I like that in the washroom setting kind of get it for yourself.”

“It’s helpful,” said Kevin Miskelly, 20, who’s in the fitness and health promotion program. “I mean if they need it, and they don’t have the time to go purchase one (tampons) if it’s like really urgent, it helps out a lot.”

The project is currently in the implementation phase, with an official launch planned for May 28, World Menstrual Hygiene Day. Making the dispensers available for use prior to the launch date allows the college to assess adequate restock levels and students’ adaption to the new service.

The Facilities Management team is working with Aunt Flow to ensure the college community has access to free menstrual products. Patricia Thome, supervisor of custodial and grounds operations, said the students have an essential role in supporting this project and each other.

“We are thrilled with the feedback given by the college community, and it motivates us immensely,” Thome said in an email. “We still have work to do and are counting on the college community’s support while we continue developing this and other wonderful projects that are coming up.”

Aunt Flow products are made from 100 per cent organic cotton, chemical-free and cardboard applicators to maintain sustainability. The dispensers are also designed to be accessible to everyone.

“There are so many great aspects to this initiative, besides the fact that now students have access to free tampons and pads,” said Thome. “Like the dispensers being designed to be accessible for people that cannot pinch and turn, for example, and for offering the opportunity for us to discuss menstruation more openly.”

“The free feminine hygiene products is progress,” said Janelle Niles, a stand-up comedian and a former message therapy student at Algonquin College. “I remember being a student and not having, let’s say a pad or a tampon, and having to ask the ladies in my class. Thankfully, I was in a class full of ladies in massage therapy, but what about the women who are doing other male-dominated programs?”

Added Niles: “This is a step up in Algonquin College being one of the most progressive colleges here in Canada.”