Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata: Period products in schools

Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata: Period products in schools aims to provide access to free period products for children and young people in all state and state-integrated schools and kura across New Zealand.

Schools and kura can choose to opt-in to Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata. Currently 2,165 schools, kura, activity centres and alternative education providers have opted into the initiative, representing 97% of estimated menstruating students.

About Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata

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.

Findings from the Youth19 Survey found 12% of Year 9 to 13 students who menstruate reported difficulty getting access to products due to cost. 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 products and could be missing school when they have their period.

Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata removes one of the barriers that prevent students regularly attending school. Providing free ikura (period) products is one way the Government can directly address poverty and positively impact student wellbeing.

Providing free ikura products in all state and state-integrated schools and kura aims to:

  • reduce barriers to school attendance and sports involvement
  • improve child and youth wellbeing
  • reduce financial strain on families and whānau, and
  • promote positive gender norms and reduce stigmatisation of menstruation.

Our name, Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata

'Ikura' is a traditional name that is derived from the saying 'Mai-i-kurawaka' which literally means 'menstrual blood that comes from kurawaka' (the vaginal area of Papatūanuku).

'Manaakitia te whare tangata' means to uphold, enshrine and take care of the whare tangata (the house of humanity, womb, uterus, temple).

Before colonisation, menstruation was regarded as a powerful symbol of whakapapa, assuring continuation of whānau and hapū. The time of menstruation was treated as tapu (sacred) and menstruation had a standing of mana. (Source: 'Waiwhero: The Red Waters A Celebration of Womanhood' by Dr Ngāhuia Murphy.)

Today, young people can find menstruation embarrassing and it can be considered shameful and dirty. Returning to a name that conveys the sacred nature and mātauranga of menstruation aims to help restore mana and destigmatise menstruation.

The name was developed in consultation with Roopū Te Ao Māori and mātauranga Māori.

We also consulted with rangatahi that took part in the pilot programme. They liked that the word ikura is simple and easy to pronounce.

“…we’re not getting a Māori name because we want to target Māori students … but because we want to get rid of the stigma around periods and restore the mana and the traditional idea that having your period should be a celebration.”

We hope to restore mana and the mātauranga of menstruation that has been lost and tell a meaningful story.

How the programme started

In 2020, Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata started with a trial phase in 15 schools and kura across the Waikato, to understand more about providing period products in schools and kura.

In February 2021, the Government announced the expansion of the initiative to all state and state-integrated schools and kura across New Zealand on an opt-in basis. Schools and kura have been able to access products for students since June 2021 with funding secured until June 2024.

Products available

Feedback from the trial highlighted that students value choice in the type and size of product provided and how they access it.

Schools and kura are able to order regular and super pads, tampons and liners. These products are easy to use and appropriate for a broad range of students' age, developmental, and cultural needs in a schooling context. Brown paper bags are also available to support students to discretely access and take home products.

Reusable products

We will continue to consider how we can support the use of sustainable products, such as reusable menstrual cups and period underwear, alongside educating students around these products.

While 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.

How do students access products?

It is up to each school how they wish to distribute products. This may be from the school office, bathrooms, a teacher, counsellor, accessible storage cupboards or any other safe communal space where students can discreetly access products without having to ask. Dispensers have been installed in schools and kura with over 100 estimated menstruating students, as well as schools and kura who requested them.

We also encourage students to take product home with them during school term and school holidays to cover their full menstrual cycle.

Feedback from students

Feedback from the initiative has been positive.

Comments from schools have included:

“This is such an amazing initiative. Our students access products on a regular basis and this has saved us a decent amount of money.”

“This has been a great game changer for many of our whānau and particularly appreciated in whānau with 2 or 3 female students in a household.”

Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata: Information for schools and kura

List of schools and kura who have opted-in (May 2024) [XLSX, 92 KB]

How were suppliers selected?

Suppliers were selected through an open tender process. Essity and OfficeMax are working as partners provide and distribute ikura (period) products.

Essity is an experienced supplier of personal care and hygiene products across Australasia, including brands such as Libra, TENA, Tork, Treasures, Purex, Handee and Sorbent across New Zealand households and businesses.

OfficeMax are one of the main distributors of stationery and other school supplies, with 88% of schools familiar with and already ordering through their online portal.

Non-branded products

The initiative is providing non-branded products to remove the day-to-day influence and perceived value of branded product on students and their families and normalise ikura (period) products as a necessity.

No other changes have been made to the products provided by the initiative.


Funding of $130,000 was made available to provide products to 15 schools in the Waikato as part of the trial stage. The Prime Minister’s Emerging Priorities Fund then provided funding of $2.6 million for the first 15 months of this initiative.

A further $25.6 million is funding the national roll-out until June 2024.

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