A SUNY Fredonia student started an initiative to provide free sanitary products to students on campus. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the program is called FREDFlo.
"We expect students to come up to campus and be Fredonia ready, but we want Fredonia to be student ready,” said Monica Manney, senior, SUNY Fredonia.
Manney is majoring in journalism. She authored an article about making sanitary products for menstruation accessible on campus for students in need.
"There's a woman on Fredonia's campus and she was kind of walking around asking for sanitary products and they said there weren’t any. One of my mentors at school said she had to look around to find some for her and she was able to find some for her, but then we were just thinking – there are none in any of the restrooms on campus,” recalled Manney.
And that inspired Manney to developed FREDFlo. She's created a club and program.
“There were so many people who had the issue and not a lot of people talking it, so when I did the article – so many people were like ‘yeah, I know, I had to run across campus – give a pad to my friends – I had to go back to my dorm – get pads from my dorm. Worried about – you know – if I was going to bleed through my clothes on my way back to my room’”, Manney explained.
“I thought it was a great idea because I remembered – we used to have machines and people had to have coins and often the machines weren’t stock appropriately,” remarked Virginia Horvath, president, SUNY Fredonia.
Horvath embraces Manney's work on this initiative. She agrees, students should have quick and easy access to the product when needed.
“Especially on a campus where people may not be near their residence hall rooms – that can create a problem if they’re ten minutes away and have just five minutes between class and realize that they need those supplies,” Horvath said.
Next semester Fredonia will launch a pilot program. Sanitary products will be placed in dispensing machines, free of charge, in all gender restroom across the campus. Manney tells WBFO News they must be “inclusive.”
“Some transmen also have periods, so we need to make sure we are being inclusive – reason being we are putting them in all of the all-gender restrooms, so that we don’t have to expose anyone or anything like that because that’s actually what we are not about,” Manney explained.
“To have everyone realize that when we talk about menstrual supplies, it’s not just women – that there are people who are in gender-transition and those who are not identifying as women – so we have all-gender restrooms, but we need to make sure everyone who has a period, has a way to have supplies through the day,” Horvath noted.
Along with inclusivity, Manney goal is to decrease the stigma around menstruation, breaking myths and taboos. But Manney was surprised by the response from her generation and the willingness to discuss the topic.
“There are also a lot of questions that people have that they kind of missed out on in middle school, as far as health, and they feel like now it’s too late to ask questions because they feel like they should know already and that’s one of the things we talked about. At our town hall meeting – ovulating – ‘do you know when you ovulate?’ and people were like ‘no’ and ‘me either, we need to learn this’ – we need to figure it out because this is really important to know for no other reason but to be in tune with your body,” Manney remarked.
Manney also set up a GoFundMe page to assist with funding for the program. But presidentHorvath established an endowment called the Monica Manney Fund for Student Health & Wellness. This will generate unrestricted dollars each year to provide the supplies.
“Once it reaches the endowment level, which should be soon, then the interest from that endowment will have funds in perpetuity,” Horvath stated.
Manney graduates this May. She is hopeful the program will sustain itself for future generations.
“That’s what I’m hoping because it’s so necessary and it’s going to be necessary for a very long time, so I just want to see it – make sure that – for no personal benefit at all – but just making sure people are prepared,” Manney responded.