From June 2020, all primary, intermediate and secondary school and kura students in Aotearoa NZ will have access to free period products - a big step forward in reducing the impact of period poverty.
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” said PM Jacinda Ardern when announcing the initiative in Hamilton today, alongside Associate Education Minister and Minister for Women Jan Tinetti.
The news comes after an Access to Period Products pilot programme that ran in the Waikato region since late last year.
The expanded initiative across the country will see a phased roll out from the Ministry of Education, with period products available towards the end of Term 2 for those schools that opt-in.
Tinetti said that feedback from the initial pilot scheme related to choice of products and how they are accessed.
"Students also said they wanted information about periods, period products, and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance."
Ardern said that providing free products is one way the Government can directly address poverty.
“We want to see improved engagement, learning and behaviour, fewer young people missing school because of their period, and reduced financial hardship amongst families of participating students.”
Period poverty is the inability to access sanitary items, whether because of financial, cultural and/or societal barriers, according to Dignity NZ.
Implications of not having access to period products can include social embarrassment, stress and reduced self-esteem; making-shifting items out of ineffectual products such as toilet paper - increasing the risk of accidents and public bleeding; exacerbating Intergenerational poverty, and other social and gender issues; missing out on education, school sports and social activities during days when students have their period; and increased workload from missing school and dealing with the stress associated to ‘catching up’.
A 2020 study by the University of Auckland found that a significant number of New Zealand teenagers were missing school because they could not afford period products, which directly contributed to inequity.
“Period poverty perpetuates inequity and cycles of disadvantage, particularly for our poorest communities and for Māori and Pasifika students,” said UoA Associate Professor Terryann Clark who led the research with Dr Terry Fleming.
“Nineteen percent of Māori youth have experienced period poverty, and 16 percent missed school because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. Our rangatahi deserve better, they deserve to have their basic needs met.”