Since December, sophomore Manaal Ali and senior Jonas Gjesdal have been working on HAPPY., an organization hoping to provide students free access to hygiene products and “aiming to better the availability and affordability of products needed for a healthy life,” according to the organization’s constitution.
“HAPPY., or ‘HAPPY period,’ as we call it—Healthy Accessible Prevention and Protection for You—is an organization that strives to improve health on campus,” Gjesdal said.
The products offered to the community by HAPPY. include, but are not limited to, feminine hygiene products like tampons and pads.
Ali stated that the constitution was left open-ended on purpose. Gjesdal said that there may be room for other protection products in the future but right now the focus is on feminine hygiene products.
Gjesdal noted that some students, especially international students, do not have cars to go purchase hygiene products when necessary.
“When it’s thirty minus outside and you don’t have a car, what are you going to do?” he said.
Sophomore Kirtana Krishna Kumar said that she is fortunate enough to have friends who will drive her when she needs anything, but she ended up in a difficult situation during spring break last year when everyone was gone.
“It was just me and my Indian friend,” Krishna Kumar said. “I totally can understand how somebody else on campus—who doesn’t have an American friend or a car—can’t just go when they need it.”
The organization upholds three pillars: advocacy, education and service. In addition to offering free hygiene products, the organization is hoping to educate the campus on women’s and trans’ rights issues.
“One of the things we really need to look at specifically is being inclusive to transgender rights as well and including it to all people not just females, and that is a big part of the project as well,” Ali said.
The idea to create the organization arose from personal experience, Ali said. She once resorted to using paper towels in a bind instead of pads or tampons because she did not have the time or access to get them.
“I did not have time, I didn’t have the money to go out and buy things all the time, so I just figured that if there was a way for things to be available for me and other students it would just be really handy,” she said.
Gjesdal ran for ASA president last spring with a similar goal in mind for free hygiene products on campus.
He said he heard a lot of complaints that there are not any options for emergencies, or, if there are, you have to pay a quarter.
“If you do not have a tampon, you probably do not have a quarter, either,” Gjesdal said.
“And [the dispensers] do not work,” Ali said. “I have tried them multiple times.”
Krishna Kumar said that The Huddle used to sell some of the products, but then they stopped.
“And they were so expensive,” she said. “For something that’s a necessity, I do not think you should be required to pay so much.”
Ali was inspired to create HAPPY. after she discovered PERIOD, an organization founded by one of her friends, Nadya Okamoto.
PERIOD is a national organization working to provide free hygiene products to individuals. The way it works is simple. Every year the university chapter applies for a fifty-dollar fee and gets products shipped to the campus no matter the amount, for a shipping cost less than $200.
“I thought that was a really unique idea, and it’s really cheap as well, and for students it’s free,” Ali said.
But Ali and Gjesdal have a few hoops to jump through before the organization gets going, as there are many logistic aspects to look at besides cost, Gjesdal said.
“We are going to start with kind of a pilot project,” Gjesdal said. “The first months we are doing it will kind of be for collecting data.”
The organization still has to look at how many products are used in different buildings and how quickly containers should be refilled.
“I just do not think that it is very sanitary for individuals [to not have these items],” Ali said. “If you do not have the ability to get those items, you should not go without. You should still have them provided to you. For me, I think it is a basic human right to have health.”