Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, recently announced that from June onwards, all schools in the country will offer free sanitary products to end period poverty.
On average, a woman spends around $10,000 on sanitary products during her reproductive cycle. In most countries, middle-class women cannot even afford period products and end up using unhygienic linen which results in major issues in later life.
New Zealand, becoming an example state, has announced that all schools will provide free sanitary products from June onwards. This news was announced following the success of a pilot programme across 15 schools last year. The country’s prime minister said the initiative will aim to address poverty, increase school attendance and make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing.
In her announcement, she said,
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population. The positive response from schools (on the pilot programs) and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura.”
According to experts, the programme will cost New Zealand approximately £13 million to provide free products from 2021 to 2024. However, this will help in removing the period of poverty.
As per Ardern’s announcement, one in 12 young people in New Zealand currently miss school because of period poverty, a term coined to describe those from low-income backgrounds who cannot afford period products.
"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.”
The current research from the pilot programmes has revealed that there are other issues surrounding periods at school as well including embarrassment, stigma, lack of knowledge and discomfort. This exacerbates the problem.
Talking about this initiative, Minister for Women Jan Tinetti said,
“Students 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.”
Dignity NZ, an organisation that advocates for the end of period poverty, estimates that 95,000 young people aged nine to 18 years old have stayed home from school during their periods because they could not afford sanitary products.
Miranda Hitchings, the co-founder of Dignity, told The Guardian,
“It’s a fantastic investment from our government. However, this is just the beginning. Period poverty doesn’t just affect students. It’s a subset of poverty, and many other groups, like those experiencing homelessness and income loss, deeply feel the implications from a lack of access to products.”
NZ is not the first country to offer free sanitary products. In November 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free sanitary products for anyone who needs them. Under the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill, local authorities in the country have a legal duty to ensure anyone who needs period products can obtain them for free.
Article source: Unilad