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Group provides free condom delivery service

| Thursday, January 31, 2019

Contraception is made convenient with “We Got You Covered,” a program started by Irish 4 Reproductive Health (I4RH), a student group independent of the University, that delivers free condoms to on-campus students who make requests through Snapchat. 

Junior Vanessa Turner, an I4RH member, said the club was formed in January of last year in order to promote safety and sexual health. The “We Got You Covered” initiative began late last semester to continue fighting for this cause.

“I think it’s really important at this university that we’re not ignoring the fact that certain activities go on,” Turner said. “We can say that people aren’t having sex on campus and try to ignore that because it’s supposed to be condemned, but the fact of the matter is that people are having sex and we need to make sure that they’re doing it in a safe way.”

I4RH has done condom distributions in the past outside of DeBartolo Hall, Turner said, but sought a more logistically feasible method. The Snapchat request idea was modeled on food delivery services in residential halls.

The initiative is sponsored by the local Planned Parenthood and Trojan, which sends shipments of condoms to campus representatives as part of the nationwide Great American Condom Campaign. These sponsorships ensure that the condoms handed out will always be free, one of I4RH’s main goals. Before delivery, I4RH packages the condoms with information covering usage and safety.

To receive a delivery, students can message the snapchat account, I4RH8, which is run by representatives from the club. A courier will then meet them at the requested time and place, usually a residential hall lobby, Turner said. Delivery hours vary each week depending on the availability of the couriers, but they tend to be late at night Thursday through Saturday. Requests can also be made in advance.

Though there is potential for abuse of the program, Turner said it’s easy to distinguish the messages that are sent in jest from the serious inquiries. So far, most messages have been sincere, and the group has faced no backlash. Students seemed to be skeptical of the program at the beginning, but the program has slowly increased in popularity, Turner said.

Ph.D. student and I4RH member Maryann Kwakwa said after working a few distribution shifts, she’s noticed that the climate surrounding discussion of sexual and reproductive health at Notre Dame is less open than Oberlin College, where she completed her undergraduate education.

But with the variety of students from diverse backgrounds attending and teaching at Notre Dame, Kwakwa said she acknowledges that the University has to maintain a difficult balance between attracting a diverse student body and faculty and maintaining the Catholic mission.

“I don’t think it’s fair to come to an institution as an employee or as a student who’s there to get an education and meet all kinds of barriers to your sexual health,” Kwakwa said. “[Condom Couriers are] filling a void right now with the idea that the University will come around to realizing that this is something that they should consider doing given the types of students that they are attracting and that there is a demand for it.”

The club — which also advocates for several other reproductive health issues including the availability of birth control through University health insurance — is planning an event to raise awareness for the struggles in healthcare faced by women of color with particular attention to maternal death rates. 

Meanwhile, Turner said the University has a long way to go when it comes to talking about sex on campus, and Kwakwa said she hopes that providing free contraception and resources to students is a step in the right direction for making campus a safer environment.

“It really isn’t about politics or people’s moral beliefs,” Kwakwa said. “It’s about preventing things from happening to allow women in particular to have opportunities to pursue their education. We have to keep in mind that these are adults and they’re doing adult things. It’s about protecting them from STDs and pregnancies.”

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