Mensi Project Gets Boost In Efforts To Address Period Poverty On Campus
One in 10 college students say they struggle to afford menstrual products each month, with 14.2% saying they've experienced that difficulty over the course of the past year. That’s according to a study published in the BMC Women's Health medical journal earlier this year.
On Aug. 5, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker took action to address that problem, signing three new bills that aim to address period poverty. One of them, House Bill 641, took effect immediately. It requires state universities and community colleges to provide free menstrual hygiene products in campus restrooms.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has been doing that for years, thanks to the Mensi Project. Christy Ferguson, an instructor of English and women’s studies at SIUE, started the initiative in 2018 after having a hysterectomy and wanting to donate unneeded menstrual products to someone who could use them.
Her modest effort to share her leftovers led to a thriving venture that has provided pads and tampons around campus at no cost to students. Mensi Project’s supplies are packaged in bags Ferguson makes by hand.
“I'm an artist and a ‘craftivist.’ So I tend to bring my art into anything that I'm doing activism-wise,” Ferguson explained on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So I just started making the bags and putting them all over the place.”
To date, the organization has relied on volunteer work and donations. Pritzker’s bill, which he signed on campus last month, changes that.
Ferguson said she plans to continue addressing period poverty on campus. These days, that also involves stocking menstrual hygiene in men’s bathrooms.
“It's just necessary for us to realize that this is not [just] a women's issue — it's a human issue,” Ferguson said. She posted new Mensi Project flyers this week that reflect the project's stance on the matter: "Humans menstruate. Genders do not."
“If we don't [provide] access to our trans students as well, then we're not doing our due diligence to take care of the entire community on campus,” she said.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.