What’s Missing in Public Restrooms?
Public-Private Partnership Provides Free,
Accessible Menstrual Products to Columbus Women and Girls
On Wednesday, January 18, 10:30am, at the Van Buren Shelter, 595 Van Buren
Drive, Councilmember Elizabeth Brown will announce two efforts
to make menstrual products free and accessible to women and girls in recreation
centers and homeless shelters around Columbus.
there any restroom outside your own home where you are expected to bring your
own roll of toilet paper,” said Councilmember Brown. “Yet there is a nearly
ubiquitous expectation for women to supply their own tampons and pads.”
monthly period is a normal bodily function for women just as going to the
bathroom is for men. However, there is no evidence of this in most bathrooms.
While free toilet paper and soap are universally expected, tampons and pads are
rarely, if ever, provided.
national study commissioned by Free the Tampons, a Columbus-based nonprofit
that aims to end restroom inequality, found that 86 percent of women have
started their periods while out in public without the supplies they need.
Seventy-nine percent end up creating a makeshift (and poor) substitute out of
an errand, in a meeting, or in school, being caught without an accessible
tampon or pad derails thousands of women every day,” said Brown. “For an
adolescent, the experience can lead to insecurity, embarrassment, and sometimes
shame. For the most vulnerable populations, like homeless women, the cost of
obtaining reliable menstrual products can even compete with the costs of
supporting a family.”
To address this gap,
City Councilmember Brown is spearheading an effort with Columbus Recreation and
Parks, LOLA, a feminine care company, and Community Shelter Board to bring
menstrual products to more women.
Brown and the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department have launched a pilot
program for free and accessible tampons and pads in recreation centers, which
are the City’s largest interface with the public. Given the success of the
pilot, free and accessible tampons and pads soon will be in all of our
recreation center bathrooms across the City.
Second, LOLA is
teaming up with Community Shelter Board and Councilmember Brown to distribute
product to the homeless women whom our shelters serve. LOLA is aiming to change
periods for the better – for everyone. To date, LOLA has donated more than
100,000 tampons to low-income and homeless women nationally and has pledged to
donate at least 400,000 tampons nationwide by the end of 2017. The initiative
in Columbus homeless shelters marks their first effort in Ohio.
“LOLA will donate
60,000 tampons to our community in 2017,” said Michelle Heritage, executive
director of Community Shelter Board. “That means every woman walking through
the doors of a homeless shelter in Columbus has access to tampons, thanks to
On average, 100
families are sheltered each night in Columbus, and 95 percent of those families
are headed by women. On average, an additional 160 women without children are
sheltered each night in Columbus.
“It’s important to
help people take care of their most basic health and hygiene needs so they can
focus on obtaining a job, an apartment, and anything else that stands in the
way of getting back on the road to self-sufficiency,” Heritage continued.
The initial purchase
of menstrual products, dispensers, and disposal receptacles by Columbus
Recreation and Parks cost $2,000. Currently, the menstrual products are in four
recreation centers: Douglas, Driving Park, Glenwood, and Linden.