Meet Molly Blackwell, Kelly Thurston, Zoe Taylor, Kyle Austin, and Ida Mua, five Lancaster University (England) students behind a new campaign called Tampon Talk that aims to get free sanitary products in the public bathrooms on their campus and in the local city center. Inspired by a class assignment on social activism, the campaign is gaining momentum and fueling heated debate among students.

“It originated as part of a University module in the Media and Sociology department that encouraged us to create a positive change through social activism,” Molly shared with WYSK. “When deciding on the nature of the project, we considered things that were personal to us and things that we wanted to change in our community.” This helped them narrow their focus to tampons and similar sanitary products – both the issue of their “unjust pricing” and their inexplicable classification as ‘luxury’ items. From this seed of an idea emerged a campaign centered on free access and destigmatization, which they’ve geared toward helping people on their campus and in the surrounding area.

“We believe everyone is equal no matter what their social status and should have access to these products, which are a basic human right. No one should have to choose between buying food or sanitary products.”

Calling attention to the personal economics that come with using tampons and other similar products, the petition that supports the Tampon Talk campaign notes, “It has been reported in the news that people who have periods spend an average of £492 ($600 US) on sanitary products annually, equating to around £18,000 ($22,000 US) over an individual’s lifetime.”

Tampon Talk co-founder Kelly said the group sees the “arguably extortionate” prices on these types of items, necessities for anyone who menstruates, as “unjust”. “Sanitary products are essential items, not luxuries and should therefore be available to all, especially in emergency situations.” She added, “We believe everyone is equal no matter what their social status and should have access to these products, which are a basic human right. No one should have to choose between buying food or sanitary products. So by placing these products in public bathrooms, it is a dignified way to promote equality.”

While their ultimate goal is to convince the Lancaster council to put free sanitary products in public restrooms around the city, an amenity that would significantly benefit the homeless population, in particular, the group realizes this might not be feasible based on municipal budgets. So in the immediate they are focusing their change making efforts in their campus bathrooms, including those that are gender neutral. “Aside from providing convenience and fail safes against emergencies, we think that having free sanitary products in these spaces will also help to further destigmatize the often taboo topic of menstruation, especially among men.”

To date, the group has received initial support from their University, specifically the Students Union, but for their Tampon Talk campaign to receive a full endorsement they’ve been told that they need more people to sign their petition, which currently has 160 signatures.

“It’s great that we’ve managed to get people talking about our mission and an important issue. Ultimately, when it comes to social change, cultural awareness and involvement is crucial.”

But their efforts to build awareness for their mission and to encourage people to sign their petition have not come without struggle. They’ve received mixed responses on the University forums, which have led to intense discussions among students with supporters and critics emerging on both sides of the issue.

Of the importance of the Tampon Talk campaign, one commenter put it this way, “Sanitary products are comparable to toilet paper {…} Imagine if suddenly we all had to bring loo rolls around with us because they weren’t put in toilets.”

Despite some of the negative chatter that has emerged, Molly sees all the feedback as a positive, “It’s great that we’ve managed to get people talking about our mission and an important issue. Ultimately, when it comes to social change, cultural awareness and involvement is crucial.”

As passionate engagement and overwhelming support continue to grow around their campaign, the founders of Tampon Talk have all the proof they need to know that “Now is the time for change. Period.”


To learn more, visit the Tampon Talk website and their social pages: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram