Access to free period products

The access to period products initiative aims to provide free period products to children and young people in all state and state-integrated 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 about not being supported to manage their periods. This affects 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.

A phased approach

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

The Waikato trial phase

To begin, fifteen schools and kura from the Waikato region were selected to take part in a trial phase, providing free period products for up to 3,200 young people with periods. We wanted to work with a small group of schools and young people to start with to understand more about the diverse experiences of young people and the barriers they face, and so we are sure that the products we provide, and the way they are provided, meet their needs.

We worked with five suppliers to test a mix of different pad and tampon products, and ways for students to access these products. These suppliers were chosen for their significant experience in period products and involvement in period poverty programmes.

Suppliers distributed products in various ways, engaging students in the design of their approach. At some schools and kura, students ordered their preferred products for up to three months to take home with them, with additional product available at school for emergencies. Other schools had dispensers installed or product available in the bathrooms for students to access discretely. Products were provided during Term 3 and 4 2020.

The feedback from the trial was overwhelmingly positive. Students emphasised they felt heard and cared for. They also valued having choice, both in product and how it was made available to them. Schools provided feedback on the shift in culture at school as the provision of product helped to reduce the stigma around periods for their students.

The first phase of this initiative is being extended until the end of Term 2 2021 to ensure there is no lapse in product for these students.

List of schools and kura in the Waikato trial phase

school or kura district
Te Awamutu Intermediate South Waikato
Te Kūiti High School (Alternative Education Managing School) South Waikato
Tokoroa High School South Waikato
Paeroa College (Alternative Education Managing School) Hauraki/Thames Coromandel
Te Kauwhata College Hauraki/Thames Coromandel
Thames South School Hauraki/Thames Coromandel
Fairfield College  Waikato
Raglan Area School Waikato
Fraser High School Waikato
Te Wharekura o te Rau Aroha Matamata Piako
Te Wharekura o te Kaokaoroa o Pātetere Matamata Piako
Putaruru College Matamata Piako
Peachgrove Intermediate Hamilton City
Ngā Taiātea Wharekura Hamilton City
Tai Wānanga Ruakura Hamilton City

The next phase

In February 2021, the Government announced the national roll-out of the initiative to all schools and kura across New Zealand on an opt-in basis, starting in June 2021 with funding secured until June 2024.

All state and state-integrated primary, intermediate and secondary schools and kura can now opt-in to receive free period products for their ākonga. Those that opt in by 31 March 2021 will be included in the first phase with products arriving in schools from the end of Term 2. Schools can continue to opt-in but will be included in later phases of the roll-out.

The first step will be to tender for the supply and distribution of products. We will be running an open tender process from late March 2021, informed by initial engagement with potential suppliers through the procurement process and by learnings from the trial. We will work with suppliers to design a solution that best meets young people’s needs, delivers products as quickly and simply as possible, and offers value for money.

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.

As the initiative develops, we will consider how we can support the use of alternative products, including menstrual cups and eco-friendly sanitary underwear. We will also look at options for more sustainable waste management and explore how we can strengthen wider education on periods for learners and the adults around them.

Information for schools and kura 

Funding

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

Funding has been secured for the national roll-out until June 2024.

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 initiative 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.

Te Kuiti High School (Alternative Education Managing School)

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