You enter the bathroom when you realize:
“Oh, crap. I forgot my pad.”
This is common among all girls at KIS and frankly every female. We all have forgotten to bring our pads at least once in our life. With panic surging and heart racing, many girls struggle when they are out of luck for a pad in emergencies. Sometimes we have a friend nearby to get one, but other times, we have to race down to the nurse’s office or even the convenient store. But how much easier and effective would it be to have a dispenser in the bathrooms so girls don’t have to fear about having no pads?
Before discussing this matter, however, we need to get comfortable with the discomfort: pads.
Yeah—it’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. But at the very same time, it’s natural.
We often view pads as ‘taboo’ or even worse ‘women’s business.’ Yet, would we view them with such sensitivity and carefulness if men had periods? Why is the topic of sanitary pads or menstruation in broad terms so unspoken of? There’s a whole movement with the #metoo campaign that’s putting women’s rights on the front line yet the topic of women’s menstruation is still silent. However, this hushed issue is a paramount part of gender equality that deserves to be openly discussed.
Understanding the importance of sanitary pads for all women and girls, I launched with Social Justice League (SJL), a potent group of students advocating for justice at KIS, the “Pad Initiative,” a project aimed to advocate for accessible pads for girls at KIS and beyond. Our current goal is to have school-funded sanitary pads in our school bathrooms so that girls feel safe and free to obtain one when needed. We hope girls, rather than struggling to get one from the nurse’s office or the store, will be able to use the pads at their convenience.
“KIS is a wonderful place to learn and grow. KIS cares about students and provides students great education with state-of-the-art facilities. But, I can’t believe KIS forgot half the student body – the female students. How did KIS ever think it was a good idea for girls to walk all the way to the nurse office during emergencies? I’m thrilled with this (obvious) initiative and hope it’s a positive experience for all the female students of KIS.”—Ms. Chang, SJL advisor
While in the process of proposing this mission to the school, we have conducted a test-run over the past few weeks. The swan holders with pads on H4 and H5 (which you probably came across) have been used to determine how necessary it is to have accessible pads. As expected, five pads were used in less than a week on just one floor; take this on a whole schoolwide level and the need for sanitary pads is evident.
Although this seems to be a small initiative, it is a potent project that brings KIS to the forefront of defending women’s rights. In fact, other international schools in Korea except for Chadwick do not have this system in place. Even more promising is how this minute act fits in with a large movement occurring today as multiple organizations and schools are pressing for free sanitary materials. Nancy Kramer is the founder of “Free the Tampons,” a campaign that aims to provide free tampons in Ohio. She claims in an interview with the Huffington Post that “tampons and pads should be treated just like toilet paper. They serve the same purpose—items to tend to our everyday, normal bodily functions.” Likewise, Viet Nguyen, the head of Brown University Undergraduate Council of Students, initiated the school to provide free pads in not only girls’ bathrooms but also men’s bathrooms, maintaining that “menstruation is experienced by more than just those who identify as women and that not all people who identify as women menstruate.”
As multiple other organizations and schools are initiating the provision of free and accessible pads, we hope that our vision becomes a key role in propelling women’s rights on a broader level. The “Pad Initiative” may be a micro act to this large movement; yet, implementing a system for pads and opening the discussion on women’s issues make KIS the trailblazers for protecting and advocating women’s rights.
Sure, #time’s up for veiling violence on women—but also for women’s health.
*SJl’s pad initiative has been approved by the admin and is now fully implemented on H1,2,3,4,5,6 and G 3,5,7 and B 1,3. Please feel free to take one when in need!
—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)