A predominantly male university is tackling a traditionally female taboo: menstruation.

Polytechnique Montréal will install ten sinks in toilet cubicles in the coming years so that students can wash their menstrual cups in complete privacy.

Students at the engineering school, who now represent a third of the student population, were also able to benefit from the distribution of reusable and disposable menstrual products on their campus on Tuesday, all in an approach that aims to be “both environmental and social”.

Dozens of curious students gathered at the start of the day around the kiosks set up on the second floor of the main building, as part of the “Menstrual Equity, Let’s Fix It” initiative.

“There was a line even before [the kiosks] opened this morning” despite the summer session, says Sophie Beaudry, a bachelor’s student in biomedical engineering met near the kiosks.

According to the young woman, the upcoming installation of these ten sinks to clean menstrual cups and the distribution of reusable and disposable menstrual products are well received by students on campus. “We are a predominantly male environment in engineering, but to have this thought for girls, to remove the taboo, to have more options and more resources, it’s just positive.”

A first prototype of a sink for washing menstrual cups was installed in a women’s washroom in the main pavilion last fall. It was thanks to a team of four students that the initiative came to fruition.

The instigator of the project, Alice Le Moël, explains that the idea came to her during a discussion with her ex-girlfriend about the complications that accompany cleaning menstrual cups. Thinking that it would be good to “be able to do this more privately,” she brought the idea to the Office of Sustainable and Societal Development at Polytechnique Montréal, which funded her project. The engineering school then took it over.

Unlike the tampon, which is thrown away after use, the menstrual cup must be emptied and cleaned in order to be reused.

“I’ve been using the cup for several years and I love it,” says Juliette Letellier-Bao, one of the students who participated in the development of the first sink prototype.

“You have to wash it every 6 hours at least […], so it’s still necessary to [make] it available if we really want it to be an option for the people who use it,” adds the master’s student in engineering physics.

According to Ms. Beaudry, not having spaces to empty your menstrual cup is a barrier to its use. “It’s used more and more now that we have spaces to do it.”

Who says reusable also says ecological. According to Joséanne Bélanger-Gravel, sustainable development advisor at the Office of Sustainable and Societal Development, almost all reusable menstrual products offered at kiosks have a lifespan of 10 years.

The advisor also explains that a team of Polytechnique students recently became interested in the environmental benefits of these reusable products as part of a life cycle analysis course.

In particular, they came to the conclusion, according to preliminary results, that a menstrual cup was more ecologically advantageous than a disposable napkin, “both in terms of carbon footprint, energy consumption and damage to ecosystems. », According to Ms. Bélanger-Gravel.

“Studies, rent, food are expensive,” says Ms. Beaudry. If at least we have [disposable menstrual products] free, that takes away the burden, especially since we have to spend money on it.”

An opinion shared by Ms. Letellier-Bao: “It’s an expense that you have to make every month […]. The fact that now there are dispensers [of tampons, sanitary napkins and panty liners], that really helps.”

According to the Government of Canada, “one in six Canadian people who menstruate have personally experienced menstrual insecurity”, especially since this precariousness affects young people disproportionately.

“I hope that [the initiative] will last over time,” argues Ms. Beaudry. I think it could really be an inspiring model for other universities to follow suit.”