Maya Jones talks to Charlotte Lewis about Bristol Feminist Society’s latest campaign, Pads for Refugees
Can you describe the pads for refugees campaign? And what does it entail?
The Pads for Refugees campaign is a campaign set up by the Feminist Society to allow students to easily donate sanitary products. Through coordination with local refugee collection groups, these pads are then sent off to vulnerable menstruating people in refugee camps across Europe and Syria. The campaign was started last year, and after great success we are now aiming to make it bigger and better, and ultimately supply more sanitary products to those who need them most. The Pads for Refugees campaign really comes down to our belief that every human deserves the dignity of access to sanitary products, wherever or whoever they are.
How can Bristol students get involved?
Simply by donating as many pads as you can. The campaign will be running throughout November and there are 20 collection points in female toilets across campus. These are located in the ASS, SU, Wills, Physics, Queens, Merchant Ventures, Life Sciences, Geography, Maths, Victoria Rooms, Beacon House, the gym, the doctors, Woodland Road, Priory Road and Stoke Bishop—so there’s plenty of opportunities to donate!
How can students get involved if they don’t use female toilets?
We also wanted to make sure that the campaign was not excluding anyone from donating, which is why we have a donation point at the entrance of the ASS so that anyone can donate, even if they don’t use the female toilets. Also just spreading the campaign as widely as you can. We have a Facebook page ‘Pads for Refugees’ (we are so very close to 200 likes!) so sharing and posting about the campaign is really important.
How did you come up with the idea?
Last year as a society we really wanted to do something to help the refugee crisis in any small way we could. We noticed that posts asking for donations rarely asked for sanitary products. Also, we felt that collecting sanitary products was a really great campaign for a student feminist group to engage in. Lots of students don’t have spare tents or clothing of which donations are, but donating a spare pad in your bag is affordable, easy and accessible for students. Since last year the need for sanitary products hasn’t gone away. In fact, in the new film I, Daniel Blake there is a really difficult scene where a woman steals sanitary pads from a shop because she can not afford them. This is why we wanted to make the campaign even bigger this year, as we have seen how successful it can be and important it is.
Have you considered cultural attitudes towards periods in your campaign?
Differing cultural attitudes towards periods have been at the forefront of our campaign as we want to make sure that what we are doing is as useful and inclusionary as possible. After discussing the issue with people who have volunteered at refugee camps, we came to the decision to only collect pads and not tampons. Although collecting tampons would allow perhaps more donations, people that receive our collections may have never used a tampon before as well as their being cultural problems with the vaginal insertion of tampons for certain groups. Also, we don’t know the level of sanitation infrastructure in camps or the kind of travelling the people using these products may partake in, therefore we can’t know that they’d be able to change their tampon regularly enough and we don’t want to put anyone at risk of toxic shock syndrome.
Do you think this campaign helps to address period taboos?
Cultural attitudes towards periods in our own society was also something we wanted to address in this campaign. Through this public collection of pads and social media publicising we wanted to challenge the period taboo which exists around us today. By speaking frankly and openly about the need for sanitary products for people around the world, we hope to open the conversation on periods, showing the differing and significant effects, and therefore its need to be addressed in global crises.
Senior Editors Annabel Nugent and Maya Jones at the Pads for Refugees Craft Workshop