Free period products to be made available to all NZ schools and kura, PM announces

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

All schools in New Zealand will be able to provide free period products from June, in an attempt to reduce period poverty. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that students "should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population". 

"Providing free period products at school is one way the Government can directly address poverty, help increase school attendance and make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing."

"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."

It now means all primary, intermediate, secondary school and kura could access free products. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the roll out of free period products was "fantastic" and particularly good for low-socio-economic groups. 

He said they knew period poverty was an issue for some young people and "we should be doing something about that".

The issue of period poverty had been concerning charity groups for years, with reports of students having to skip school due to being unable to afford period products. 

It comes after a pilot programme was rolled out in 15 Waikato schools and kura in the second half of last year, with about 3200 students given products.

"Feedback from the students was that period products should be made available for all who need them, when they need them," Ardern said. 

It will be a phased roll out, with period products available from end of term two for schools and kura that opt-in by March.

There was criticism from campaigners for the delay in the roll out of free products to school and kura in November, after announcing the plan last June

Budget 2020 put more than $2 million towards the roll-out of free period products in school.

Period poverty

In 2016, Seven Sharp investigated the issue of  girls being kept home from school  due to being unable to afford sanitary products. 

One Auckland budgeting service said over a few months they were aware of 10 families who kept their daughters at home. 

"There's a girl who's 16 years of age, at least one week of every four she stays home because the family cannot afford them," Darryl Evans, from the Mangere Budgeting Service in Auckland, said at the time. 

In March 2017, former deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said she was " absolutely appalled  that there might be girls whose education is being held up because they are embarrassed or they can't get access to what they really need". 

"I think there is a role to reduce the cost for some girls who are not getting access to, quite frankly, the education and health benefits that all New Zealanders should get."

In July, 2018, supermarket chain Countdown announced it would be  dropping the price of some female sanitary products  to fight "period poverty" for low income and disadvantaged Kiwi women.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman called for the  impact of period poverty to be treated as a human rights issue  and for a Government response to the issue in August 2018. 

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said in July 2018 that feedback from school nurses and principals revealed the lack of access to female sanitary products due to cost is a major problem, with  some girls taking the contraceptive pill to stop  their periods.