Girls To Be Given Free Sanitary Products In New Zealand Schools To Help End Period Poverty
Girls in New Zealand schools will be provided with free sanitary products as part of its government’s efforts to end period poverty.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government will pay for necessary items such as sanitary pads and tampons in schools across the country, in a bid to ‘support young people to continue learning at school’.
Almost 95,000 young girls aged between nine and 18 years old are thought to stay home from school during their periods because they’re unable to afford period products, Ardern said, and vowed to change this.
Period poverty is a very real and pressing issue, affecting women and girls who either can’t afford or don’t have access to safe and hygienic sanitary products.
However, it doesn’t just affect those who have no access whatsoever; in some cases, the women/girls have limited access, leading to prolonged use of the same tampons or pads, which can cause infection.
While period poverty is often seen as a problem that only affects developing countries, this is not the case. In fact, several studies have shown that the issue impacts millions of people in the world’s richest nations – including the US, the UK and New Zealand.
One KidsCan survey in 2018 found one in three of the New Zealand women surveyed said they had, at times, had to choose between buying food and sanitary products, with some respondents reporting using toilet paper, rags, old cloths and even nappies when they couldn’t afford tampons and pads.
As part of its pledge to end period poverty, the New Zealand government is investing NZ$2.6 million (£1.3 million) in the initiative, with free sanitary products initially being made available in 15 schools in Waikato, a region of the upper North Island in New Zealand.
This will happen during term three of this year, before the initiative is then rolled out nationwide across all state and state-integrated schools by 2021.
In a statement, Ardern said:
Our plan to halve child poverty in 10 years is making a difference but there is more to do, and with families hit hard by the COVID-19 global pandemic it’s important to increase that support in the areas it can make an immediate difference.
This is another important initiative that sits alongside our work to reduce child poverty and hardship including the $5.5bn Families Package, free lunches in schools, cheaper visits to the doctors, stopping schools asking for donations, and lifting benefits.
While a great step forward for New Zealand, it’s now vital that other countries follow suit if we are to stamp out period poverty once and for all.
Scotland led the way on this issue, approving a bill that would make it the first country to provide free pads and tampons earlier this year in a landmark vote, but it’s clear so much more needs to be done to tackle this issue head on.
Let’s just hope other countries, including our own, start to take note.
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