Access to free period products

The access to period products initiative aims to provide free period products to children and young people in all schools and kura across New Zealand during 2021.

Periods are a fact of life for half the population. Despite this, young people don’t always have access to the products they need to feel comfortable at school, engage in their learning, and manage what should be a normal and healthy part of life.

Poor access to period products can affect students’ attendance and engagement at school. Students also miss out on sporting and cultural activities and can feel embarrassed and ashamed, affecting their achievement and wellbeing.

Findings from the Youth19 Survey found 12 per cent of year 9 to 13 students who menstruate reported difficulty getting access to products due to cost; and recent research from the University of Otago found that 94,788 girls aged 9 to 18 from the country's poorest households may be unable to afford to buy period products and could be missing school when they have their period.

Providing access to free period products to those who need it, in all state and state-integrated schools and kura will:

  • reduce barriers to access and improve school attendance, sports involvement and tertiary participation
  • improve child and youth wellbeing
  • reduce financial strain on families and whānau experiencing poverty/material hardship, and
  • promote positive gender norms and reduce stigmatisation of menstruation.

Access to period products is a necessity, not a luxury. The need to access period products exists for every young person who experiences menstruation including young women, girls, transgender, and gender diverse youth, in ways that meet diverse needs and cultural perspectives.

We also know that some families and whānau will be facing increased financial stress as a result of the economic impact of COVID-19. This initiative is also one of a range of approaches to mitigate the impacts of socioeconomic disadvantage and to reduce child poverty.

The programme upholds, honours and gives practical effect to Te Tiriti | The Treaty, respecting the position of Māori as tangata whenua, in order to support equity and remove barriers to access, for all tamariki to thrive and flourish in Aotearoa New Zealand.

A phased approach

We are taking a phased approach to introduce period products in schools and kura.

During Term 3, 2020, the first phase will invite up to 15 selected schools and kura in the Waikato to take part.  We will contact these schools directly. This will provide an opportunity to learn more about the challenges young people can face before rolling the programme out more widely.  

In the first instance, pads and tampons will be provided. These products are easy to use and appropriate for a broad range of students’ age, developmental, and cultural needs in a schooling context. We will consider alternative products, including menstrual cups and eco-friendly sanitary underwear, as the programme rolls out.

From Term 1 2021 the programme will be offered to all state and state-integrated schools and kura in Waikato and then to schools throughout New Zealand on an opt-in basis.

Further information to schools will be provided later in the year as the programme is rolled out.

Working with others

We want to work with a small group of schools and young people to start with, so we are sure that the products we provide, and the way they’re provided, meet their needs. It is important that we understand the barriers faced to accessing products, and the diverse experience and cultural perspectives of all young people, so we can design an approach that provides the right products in the right way.

We will also be talking with other stakeholders including schools, NGOs, suppliers, and district health boards to explore what is already provided and test the best way of providing products in schools. This means we will be able to evaluate, refine and improve our approaches before expanding the programme to other schools and kura across New Zealand.

We will also work with young people to explore the language around menstruation and an appropriate name for the initiative.

Funding

Funding of approximately $100,000 has been made available to provide products for up to 15 schools in the Waikato.

Other wellbeing initiatives

Being able to go to school everyday is important for overall wellbeing. It provides a safe environment where children and young people can grow and learn, build social connections and a sense of belonging, and develop their potential. It has long-term impacts for health, employment opportunities and life choices.

Access to period products is just one way to remove barriers that prevent children and young people regularly attending school. Providing free period products is one way government can directly address poverty and positively impact children’s wellbeing.

The programme complements more than 75 initiatives included in the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy launched in 2019. It sits alongside other initiatives such as free school lunches, cheaper visits to the doctors, and the school donations scheme that will help families with the costs of essentials.

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