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College sophomore Ria Ellendula is launching her Menstrual Product Distribution Pilot Program on March 22, which will make menstrual products freely available at Hill College House. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Starting March 20, free menstrual products will be available for students in Hill College House for the remainder of the school year. 

In collaboration with Penn Residential Services, the Undergraduate Assembly Equity and Inclusion Committee is launching a menstrual product distribution pilot program on March 20. The program will supply free menstrual products at Hill’s communal bathrooms and front desk for both residents and non-residents to use.

Although this is the first time such a pilot program has been launched specifically in Penn’s residential buildings, the UA and various other organizations have participated in similar initiatives involving the distribution of menstrual products. In the spring of 2022, the student-led nonprofit Penn Period Project conducted their own pilot to supply free menstrual products in buildings such as 1920 Commons, which is now slowly being implemented by certain organizations at Penn. 

"Our program gained administration and Penn community awareness of the importance of the free products in campus bathrooms," Co-President of Penn Period Project and College junior Maya Litvak said.

If the UA and Penn Residential Services' joint program were to be a success, Penn would join a number of schools in supplying free period products on campus, including Princeton University, Yale University, and Harvard University. 

UA Equity and Inclusion Committee Director and College sophomore Ria Ellendula said that there are many areas that are connected to menstrual product accessibility.

“I think menstrual product accessibility is a socioeconomic issue, health issue, and educational issue. Since it ties into all those things, it's so imperative that we can do whatever we can to make these products accessible," Ellendula said. "At the end of the day, it’s not just a product, but a tool for so much more."

Toward the end of the school year, a survey will be sent out to students to gather information about student demand for the products, their cost, and practicality. Ellendula said it is the committee's hope that the feedback will convince Penn’s administration to expand the program to all residential areas.

“Residential Services is excited to be working with the Undergraduate Assembly in offering no-cost menstrual products in Hill College House as a pilot program,” Director of Residential Services Patrick Killilee wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. “We will use the results of the pilot to determine best practices and what a campus wide residential roll out of this program would look like in the future.”

Killilee added that Housekeeping will be responsible for distributing and restocking the products daily. In order to ensure that there are enough products for everyone, students are urged to take only what they need. 

According to Ellendula, Hill was specifically chosen because of its accessibility in order to reach the maximum number of students. Hill contains four communal and gender-neutral bathrooms on every floor. Ellendula said having free products distributed there promotes the idea that the need for menstrual products extends beyond only female-identifying individuals.

As the name suggests, the UA's Equity and Inclusion Committee is specifically in charge of supporting projects that promote equitable and inclusive spaces on campus. Working as a liaison to PPP and Penn Association for Gender Equity last year, Ellendula said she was introduced to the movement to increase menstrual product accessibility.

Among the many projects that the organizations dedicated to menstrual equity are pursuing, the latest move to have free products in housing facilities is part of the three-pronged project for expanding menstrual accessibility on campus, according to Ellendula. The other two projects include supplying free products and holding menstrual equity workshops in all campus buildings. An upcoming menstrual equity workshop on period poverty will take place at Rodin College House on March 28. 

Co-Founder of Penn Reproductive Justice and College sophomore Annabelle Jin said that having access to menstrual products is important to creating equity in the menstrual sphere.

“The reason why I got involved was because when I first got my period, I remember going to the school bathroom and not knowing what to do, so I had to use toilet paper and it was just really uncomfortable,” Jin said. “But as I learned more about periods and the effect that poverty has on people's ability to take care of their periods, I realized that, for some people, using substitutes for period products like toilet paper is their reality. And there's no reason that that should be the case.”