Menstrual Equity Comes to Babson
By the time Babson’s Wellness and Prevention Services Director Katia Santiago-Taylor met Ceylan Rowe MBA’22, Santiago-Taylor had already been thinking about new ways she could ensure people on campus have access to menstruation products.
“I have a teenager at home, and talking about periods and being prepared is a big thing in our house. I’m having conversations about what happens if your period comes, what are you going to do, what do you need to have,” Santiago-Taylor said. “So I had it in the back of my mind that I’d really like to do something making period products more accessible.”
Enter Rowe, who had recently started Fihri, a company that provides sustainable pads, tampons, menstrual cups, and other products with a goal of ending period poverty.
During Babson’s CARE week last April, Fihri’s promotional table ended up right next to Santiago-Taylor’s Wellness and Prevention Services table.
“I was like, ‘This has got to be a sign,’ ” Santiago-Taylor said.
Since their serendipitous meeting, Rowe has built a strong relationship with Babson’s Wellness and Prevention Services (WPS) team. Their newest event is a November 11 period kit-making fundraiser on campus called Period Palooza. The event encourages volunteers to pack a reusable pouch with organic pads and panty liners, biodegradable pads and panty liners, and organic tampons to give to those in need of menstrual hygiene products.
The kits, which cost about $10, will then be donated to Babson’s WPS and Dignity Matters, a nonprofit that collects, purchases, and supplies feminine hygiene products, bras, and underwear to women and girls who are homeless or disadvantaged.
“I’m really excited for us to do more partnerships together,” Rowe said of WPS. “We’re really passionate about health and wellness and making sure that students have access to these products, which means they’ll have equal access to education. I want students to thrive.”
Period Palooza comes amid a growing awareness of period poverty that has translated into action across the country, including a bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate this year. The I Am bill, which is awaiting passage by state representatives, would provide menstrual products to all menstruating individuals in schools, shelters, and prisons.
Meanwhile, some Babson students have requested greater access. On Babson’s Residential Life Instagram account, a post celebrating Period Action Day and detailing ways to access free period products prompted one student to vent frustration about access to free condoms, while a tampon machine installed nearby requires quarters.
“The launch is a great step in the right direction and I’m really excited to see it. A next step that would mean a lot to the student body would also see emergency menstrual supplies in women’s bathrooms,” the student wrote, adding that “no one carries quarters anymore.”
Mica Sher, assistant director of WPS, is working with Santiago-Taylor to improve access across campus “It’s brought me a lot of purpose learning students’ period needs and planning how to meet this demand,” Sher said.
“Babson is a special place for me and for many of my peers. It’s like an entrepreneur’s playground where there are so many creative, talented people who are just trying to do good in the world.”
Ceylan Rowe MBA’22
WPS rolled out a soft launch of free period products in late September, purchasing 50 boxes of organic tampons, 500 organic pads, and 10 menstrual cups and distributing them evenly across campus. The goal is to see where the demand is for these products before progressing to a bigger order.
“Our next steps include physical signage for where to get the products and how to reach staff who supply them,” Sher said. “We will continue tracking demand and use, address how to reach students after hours, garner support from other offices, and place a second order before spring.”
Rowe, who also attended Babson’s Summer Venture Program, is excited to continue working with Babson, where so much of her business has taken shape.
“Babson is a special place for me and for many of my peers. It’s like an entrepreneur’s playground where there are so many creative, talented people who are just trying to do good in the world. They come here to learn and build something special,” Rowe said. “I’m very grateful to have been a part of it”
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