KPU Student Gathers Feminine Hygiene Products for Refugees

Come January, people will be able to make their donations at the Social Justice space

The Runner

When we think of necessities, we first bring to mind food, water, and shelter. We don’t often consider pads or tampons, as they don’t apply to a full percentage of the population. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t absolutely critical to those who are in need of them, such as the population of Syrian refugees who the city of Surrey will be welcoming before the end of the year.

There will be those amongst the Surrey-bound refugees who will require feminine hygiene products. In anticipation of this, RK Dhadwal, a third-year fine arts student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, has taken it upon herself to raise donations towards making these products available to the incoming refugees.

“It’s easier to satisfy a necessity that people can see,” says Dhadwal. “For example, most of the refugees will be families with kids, so it makes sense for people to think of providing products that will help out the kids, because they can see the kids.”

In the days following the government’s official refugee decision, Dhadwal realized that the bulk of the people Canada would be welcoming were women. “The first thing that came to my mind was, what are they going to do when their time of the month comes? I mean some women are bed-ridden when this happens. I can’t imagine how much harder not having these products would make their already bad situation.”

Access to feminine hygiene products in Canada received significant attention over the past year, with people advocating for the removal of the “tampon tax,” which charged GST on items like pads and tampons. Those arguing for the removal of the tax suggested that these products should be perceived as fundamentally necessary, and the government announced that on July 1 the “tampon tax” would be removed. It’s a similar argument for realizing that these products are also needed for refugees.

Dhadwal believes that it is part of our responsibility as Canadian citizens, then, that the people we are offering shelter to have similar access to the necessity of pads and tampons. She argues that women in particular should speak up about these needs, and not be afraid to raise awareness towards the topic of periods.

“Women understand each other,” she says. “We know first-hand how uncomfortable bringing this up could make some of us. it’s up to the rest of us to reach out and do something about it.”

Though Dhadwal is still working out the logistics of how she is going to carry out her project, she says that students should be able to expect a donation box sometime in the next month. Once available, people will able to make either a cash or product deposit.

“It would be great if the donations could be actual boxes, as those will be easier to transfer than individual pads or tampons,” says Dhadwal. “After all the donations are collected, I’ll go to the Muslim Friendship Center off of King George Avenue and give it all to them. The people that work or volunteer there are extremely involved with the Syrian refugee efforts.”

The complete effort will involve promoting Dhadwal’s initiative via social media campaigning, as well as flyer distribution, crowdfunding, and postering on all four of Kwantlen’s campuses.

Dhadwal believes that part of living in a community means giving back to those who less privileged than you. “I feel like it’s important because you create a connection with people who are different from you. For example, when I go to give the refugees these products, I could interact with them and see what is happening in the real world in real time,” she says.

Students looking to follow Dhadwal’s example and help ensure that the needs of the incoming refugees are met can begin by making similar donations to the recently founded Muslim Student Association, or by talking to the KSA about how to give back to the community.

“A lot of people just don’t know where to start, or how to help a cause that matters to them,” says Dhadwal. “The easiest way is to help is to find someone who’s already doing something about that cause and join them.”