Access to free period products Frequently Asked Questions

The access to period product initiative aims to provide free period products to children and young people in all schools and kura across New Zealand from 2021. The frequently asked questions below provide more information on this initiative.

Why should we provide period products in schools?

Poor access to period products can affect students’ attendance and engagement at school. Students can endure the stigma of not being supported to properly manage what is a normal, healthy fact of life and miss out on learning, sporting and cultural activities, affecting their achievement and wellbeing. Approximately one in twelve students reported having missed school due to lack of access to period products.

  • 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.
  • Recent analysis undertaken by researchers at the University of Otago, using Census data and the New Zealand Deprivation Index, found that 94,788 9 to 18 year olds from the country's poorest households may be unable to afford to buy period products and could therefore be staying home when they have their period.

What’s the outcome we want for students and families?

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

  • reduce barriers to access
  • 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.

The outcomes we want to see include improved engagement, learning and behaviour, fewer young people missing school because of their period, and reduced financial hardship amongst the families of participating students.

How will this initiative support tamariki and rangatahi Māori and Pacific students and their families and whānau?

Māori and Pacific students are more likely to be in communities facing greater social economic challenges and therefore disproportionality impacted by having limited access to period products.

We have talked with Māori and Pacific students, whānau and families as part of the trial, to understand their perspectives and how best the initiative can meet their needs. We continue to look for opportunities to talk and listen so that feedback can inform ongoing delivery. This will include talking about cultural perspectives and approaches to menstruation, types of period products, and different ways to access products.

Implementation

How is the initiative being implemented?

We are taking a phased approach to this initiative:

  • Initial trial phase with 15 Waikato schools and kura
  • Phase one: product delivery to all state and state-integrated primary, intermediate and secondary schools that opt-in. Feedback from schools and kura has continued to highlight the urgent need for products. To address this, phase one is focused on delivering products to schools and kura as simply and as quickly as possible
  • Phase two: refining distribution and tailoring service. Phase one will continue until phase two is implemented, to ensure there is no interruption to product provision for students and schools.

Phase one: product delivery

How will product be distributed to schools and kura?

We are using an existing distribution service, Blue Star, to deliver products to schools and kura. An existing contract with Blue Star has been adapted to include period products.

Blue Star were chosen as they already manage product orders, warehousing and distribution to schools and kura. Schools and kura are already familiar with ordering curriculum and other education resources through their online ordering system Down the Back of the Chair.

Blue Star will receive product from the supplier(s), and box up supplies into delivery packs for schools and kura. Deliveries will be based on each school or kura’s individual quantity orders. Brands will be randomly allocated.

How do schools and kura access products?

Schools and kura need to opt-in to access period products. Schools can opt-in via a simple form(external link).

The ordering portal via Blue Star’s website opened 1 June 2021.

Guidance is provided to schools and kura to help work out the quantity of product to order based on the numbers of menstruating students at their school. Schools and kura can calculate how often they need to order, based on their storage and distribution capacity.

Product is ordered by cartons of 12 packs of one product type (e.g. regular pads, super tampons), with 10-12 pads or tampons per pack depending on brand. On average 12 packs will provide enough product for six students to manage their whole cycle for one month, e.g. two packs of pads or tampons in different sizes depending on their needs.

Schools and kura are encouraged to order as often as they need depending on their students’ needs and to minimise storage issues and over ordering.

Schools that have not yet opted-in to the initiative can still do so. As schools and kura continue to opt-in and place orders, product will be progressively distributed to them.

How did you source period products for schools and kura?

Four suppliers were selected by open tender to provide products for phase one - Oi; Kimberley Clark (U by Kotex) The Warehouse Group and Crimson Organic.

We will be running an open tender process on the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) for phase two. This is designed to promote open and fair competition in the New Zealand Government market. 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. We are looking to contract a supplier(s) for a minimum of two years.

Suppliers interested in getting involved can register for this service at gets.govt.nz/(external link) to be notified when the tender is posted.

How will the Ministry monitor ordering of products?

Uptake of product and orders will be monitored via the ordering system. Schools and kura have a maximum order quota, based on their school roll, each menstruator requiring two packs of product per month, and ordering up to three months supply.

There is no minimum amount so that schools with few menstruating students can order as little as they need.

Will this require staffing in schools?

The initiative will require support from schools as it gets underway for example distributing products to students. Phase two will look for ways to provide products to schools that require minimise staff involvement.

Young people can be embarrassed to talk to adults so we will work with schools on the best way to deliver period products that minimises interactions with staff.

When will product be available for students?

Products will be delivered to schools and kura from 14 June 2021.

How will students access the products?

For phase one product delivery, each school or kura will arrange an appropriate way for students to collect products discreetly depending on what works best at their school. This may be from the school office, a teacher, counsellor or other trusted adult.  

Phase two will explore other ways for students to access products such as monthly individual delivery packs ordered by students, bulk supply distributed through a trusted adult and dispenser units in bathrooms. This will draw on methods tested in the trial phase. We have learnt from the trial that students really value choice, both in distribution method and product, so we will work with suppliers on how best we can meet students’ needs.

Why are we providing product to all students? Why not targeted to only those most in need?

Providing product on a universal basis has several advantages.

It minimises any stigma associated with being unable to afford essential products, with being embarrassed to approach an adult, with just being unprepared, or simply for having a period at all. All students who need products benefit, whatever the reason, and there is no need to single out those who need it more than others.

Targeting programmes on the basis of need also requires a process to confirm eligibility. This can add to cost and complexity whilst discouraging uptake, even among those who are eligible, meaning some students needing products miss out.

Providing products to all students also reinforces the message that periods are a normal part of life, and that everyone should have access to essential products so they can take part in their normal everyday activities.

Is the initiative compulsory?

Taking part in the initiative is a school or kura decision and is not compulsory. We are providing period products to schools and kura on an opt-in basis so that schools can assess whether to offer period products to students and what is the best way to do this for their community. Feedback indicates that access to period products is already a concern for a number of schools, and we expect uptake to reflect this.

In addition, using products provided is not compulsory. Students are free to make their own choices about what they use and can continue to bring products from home if they prefer.

What types of products will be available? Will the initiative include making sustainable products available?

Phase one will provide regular and super pads and tampons. These products are easy to use and appropriate for a broad range of students’ age, developmental, and cultural needs in a schooling context. It will also include relevant information required by New Zealand law about the safe use of products.

Providing pads and tampons in phase one also addresses the immediate need for many students to simply gain reliable access to product when they need it. Product provided to schools and kura for this phase will be branded to ensure we can get pads and tampons to students quickly.

The trial showed that students prefer using pads over tampons, at approximately an 80/20 ratio. This may be different for primary and intermediate schools where students may only use pads.

Whilst reusable products can provide a longer-term more environmentally friendly option, they are not always suitable for the age range and cultural diversity of young people in schools. Some young people can find it challenging to use these at school and are uncomfortable carrying used products in their schoolbags. We will work with stakeholders and suppliers to provide more information on alternative products and how students might access them, including menstrual cups and eco-friendly sanitary underwear.

How many schools and kura have opted in?

At the start of June 2021, 1,619 schools and kura have opted-in to the initiative meaning almost 90 percent of estimated students who have periods are in schools that have opted-in.

Why is the initiative offered on an opt-in basis?

Offering the initiative on an opt-in basis recognises that needs will vary across schools, kura and communities, and that schools and kura are best placed to assess local interest and demand. The initiative provides access and choice for any schools that identifies a need, including schools where a need may not be so obvious. For example, we know of a number of single sex boys’ schools which partner with other local schools for particular classes or across year groups and include students of more than one gender.

Does the initiative include primary, intermediate and secondary schools?

The initiative is available to all state and state-integrated schools and kura. Research shows the average age young people start menstruating is decreasing, and access to period products in primary and intermediate, as well as secondary is needed.

What about alternative education and activity centres?

All students in alternative education and activity centres may access the period products initiative. Each centre can individually opt-in in the same way as schools and kura can.

What about home schooling?

Period products are being offered to students enrolled in all state and state-integrated schools.

What will it cost to supply period products to every school in New Zealand?

Funding of $2.6 million for the first fifteen months of this initiative will be met from the Prime Minister’s Emerging Priorities Fund. Cabinet agreed to fund phase two of the initiative up until June 2024.

What about sanitary bins?

The implementation process will establish the roles and responsibilities for the day-to-day management of the initiative including appropriate sanitary disposal. This is planned to start later this year.

Are there particular health and safety considerations?

It is important that children and young people menstruating have access to appropriate and safe period products. Research indicates that people who do not have the products they need are often forced to use unsafe or unreliable alternatives, such as newspaper or rags, which increase the risk of infection. Hygienic disposal of pads and tampons through the use of sanitary bins is already managed by schools.

What if schools and kura are already providing period products for their students?

Schools and kura can choose to opt-in to the initiative. We know some have already established ways to provide period products to students, including through charitable providers and/or by using their own resources.

We are working with other organisations such as KidsCan and Dignity NZ that already provide period products to schools to ensure a smooth transition to the government initiative and mitigate any supply issues.

Phase two: refining distribution and tailoring the service

What will be included in phase two of the implementation?

Phase two will refine product distribution by working with schools, kura and suppliers to develop additional components that cater to individual student and school needs, provide a tailored approach and widen the scope of the initiative to include menstrual education resources. For example:

  • monthly individual delivery packs ordered by students themselves
  • bulk supply distributed through a trusted adult
  • dispenser units in bathrooms
  • education tools.

This phase will be informed by lessons from the trial phase and phase one product delivery, international research and collaboration with advocacy groups.

Phase one will continue in parallel so that product supply is not interrupted whilst phase two is introduced.

Trial phase

Where did the trial in Term 3, 2020 take place?

The access to period products initiative began during Term 3 2020 in fifteen Waikato schools and kura providing products to around 3200 students. We wanted 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 are provided, meet their needs. The initiative is now being expanded to all state and state-integrated schools, on an opt–in basis.

Is this initiative based on models used overseas?

The approach we take needs to work well within the New Zealand school system, which is why we are not directly implementing an approach designed overseas. Our school populations are diverse, and we want to ensure that all children and young people with periods have access to the products they need.

Who did you consult with about the programme?

A small number of schools and kura were consulted during the development of the initiative. The Ministry also drew on research findings and consultation with others, including with the Government of Victoria. This confirmed that there is a need for period products amongst students.

The first trial phase involved working closely with selected schools and kura, young people, suppliers, charitable organisations, advocacy groups and other stakeholders to understand what was in place and develop and test the best way of providing products in schools. This included independently engaging with young people to understand the barriers to accessing products and the most effective mechanisms to support them to access products.

How was the trial implemented?

Five suppliers with significant experience in period products and involved in period poverty programmes were identified to take part in a closed tender process for the first phase. They have been providing period products to fifteen schools across Waikato since the beginning of Term 3 2021.

Suppliers distributed products in various ways with a focus on involving 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.

These 15 schools will continue to receive product as part of phase one.

What was the feedback from the trial?

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

Child poverty

Why can't families provide these products for their own children and young people?

There are many reasons why families and whānau may not be able to provide period products for their children, often through no fault of their own. For families who struggle with living costs, the additional cost of these products can be a real challenge. The embarrassment of asking adults can also sometimes be a barrier for young people. Sometimes periods just happen whether students are prepared or not, regardless of their situation at home.

Whatever the reason, access to period products is a necessity, not a luxury. The need is for every young person who has a period including young women, girls, transgender and gender diverse youth. It is important to provide options that meet this need, so that all students can engage in education and their other regular activities.

The Warehouse has period items from $1 a box. With this and other initiatives in the sector, is there really a need for this?

More affordable options for families are welcome and this and other community initiatives help to relieve the financial pressure on families. However, cost is not the only barrier preventing students from accessing the products that they need. The stigma of asking adults, at home or at school, can also be a barrier. For some families and young people, such as those in rural communities, getting to a store or community initiative may not be straightforward. Schools can be a stable, safe, and consistent location for young people to access period products.

 

 

 

Last reviewed: Has this been useful? Give us your feedback