All New Zealand Schools Will Offer Free Sanitary Products To End Period Poverty, Jacinda Ardern Says
Jacinda Ardern has announced that all schools in New Zealand will offer free sanitary products by June.
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.
‘Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,’ she said in her announcement.
‘The positive response from schools and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura,’ she said of the pilot programmes.
It has been estimated that the programme will cost New Zealand approximately £13 million to provide free products from 2021 to 2024.
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 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,’ Ardern added.
The research from the pilot programmes had shown that other issues surrounding periods at school – such as embarrassment, stigma, lack of knowledge and discomfort – also exacerbated the problem.
‘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,’ Minister for Women Jan Tinetti said.
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.
‘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,’ Miranda Hitchings, co-founder of Dignity, told The Guardian.
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.
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