The Take One or Give One Campaign
The story behind the sanitary containers around the University of Queensland.
Take One or Give One: five simple words written on containers of female sanitary products are changing the way bathrooms at The University of Queensland work.
The initiative began in March 2017 with just 56 tampons in three containers.
The next day these were all gone, so the initiative spread. The containers can now be found in 10 locations around the St Lucia campus.
The way this initiative works is simple: anyone using these bathrooms can either take one of these sanitary products to use if they need it; or, they can add to the container for someone else to use in the future.
There's one person to thank for all of this.
Her name is Eliza Sullivan.
Eliza is in her last semester at UQ studying Law and Criminology.
The idea was borne out of frustration at the stigma surrounding mensuration and the lack of accessibility to these essential products.
Eliza had read an article on Facebook about some comments a male had made after seeing a bowl of tampons offered at a house party.
“Reading about this guy's ignorant reaction kind of pissed me off. But, it really got me thinking about how I could counter this stigma and help out people in need. I then saw another bowl of free tampons out at Netherworld in the Valley and just thought, ‘yeah alright, I’ll just do it – everyone needs a tampon.’”
Initially, Eliza was transitioning from using average sanitary products to purely organic products, so she had an excess of tampons that she wanted to give away.
This, combined with her desire to make a change, was enough for Eliza to start the initiative on her own.
Eliza spent her own money on containers and products. Her own time was spent on distribution and regular checks to see how the containers were going and if they needed topping up.
While Eliza was aiming for the containers to become self-sufficient, she was distributing 200 tampons a week for the first five months.
Eliza sees the containers as a small but important step in the right direction, and as a way of giving back after being at the university for five years.
The response to the containers has been widespread and overwhelmingly positive.
There is a growing a presence on social media, particularly on 'UQ StalkerSpace' and popular female Facebook page 'Advice'.
Members of the UQ Women's Collective have also responded well to this initiative.
"I like the containers because it helps normalise menstrual stigmas, and free tampons and pads are excellent because they're still such a 'luxury' item."
Growing impact: a spread to public areas
Business Management and Psychology student, Jess Taylor, saw these containers and decided to start her own in her hometown of Redcliffe.
“I saw the containers around UQ and thought, ‘wow, this is a great idea. I could do this.’”
Having distributed 4 containers around public areas in Redcliffe, she believes that this action makes it personal without getting too involved.
“I find it fascinating how it’s all about girls helping girls. It’s a great way to help someone out.”
“If you give someone a pad or tampon personally, you’re helping them once. If you set up these containers, you’re helping them long term.”
Initially, the containers in Redcliffe were doing quite well and the public seemed to be responding to them positively. However, these containers no longer exist.
Whenever Jess did regular checks on the containers, they were either completely empty or, in most cases, the containers are gone altogether.
“Because I have uni and work during the week, I don’t get the opportunity to check up on the containers as regularly as I’d like to. It’s possible that cleaners don’t know what they are and so they’re chucking them out, or even that they’re being stolen. Something else I’ve also wondered about is age – younger generations are generally more open and comfortable with discussing periods, whereas the older generations, I find, aren’t as comfortable. Having these containers in public bathrooms means that anyone can come in and use them and see the containers there, and maybe they’re the ones getting rid of them.”
With time, both Eliza and Jess connected and realised they shared a common idea about what the future of the ‘Take One or Give One’ containers looked like.
They wanted to build awareness for these containers in the locations that they currently are, whilst encouraging other people to begin the initiative themselves in their own area.
And so came ‘The Take One or Give One Campaign’. An official name, logo and Facebook page were created.
The logo and a link to the Facebook page are now on every Take One or Give One container.
“We wanted to have a logo so it would jog people’s memory and be an identifier for the containers, and from that they can see the link to the Facebook page where they can go to find out more information.”
Currently with 223 likes, the page posts about the containers and shares content about related issues.
One of these posts shared a video about females who were homeless and the struggles they faced every single month.
A bigger issue
On October 2nd it was announced that the tampon tax would be axed by January 2019.
While this is a major step in the right direction, the bigger conversation surrounding sanitary product price and accessibility doesn't end here.
It opens up a discussion about many other topics including feminism, gender gaps, gender neutralisation, generational differences... the list goes on.
Tax or no tax, it is important we keep this conversation going.