Ikura|Manaakitia te whare tangata Period products in schools

Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata 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 2,111 schools, kura, activity centres and alternative education providers have opted into the initiative, representing 96 percent of estimated menstruating students.

About Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata - Period products in schools

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 products and could be missing school when they have their period.

Providing access to free 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 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.

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.*

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.

Our 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 work 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.

* Dr Ngāhuia Murphy, Waiwhero: The Red Waters - A Celebration of Womanhood.


In 2020, the initiative 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, starting in June 2021 with funding secured until June 2024.

We have taken a phased approach to rolling out ikura products in schools and kura across the country.

  • Phase one: product delivery to schools and kura from June 2021
  • Phase two: refining the distribution model from March 2022

By August 2022, 2,111 schools, kura, activity centres and alternative education providers had opted-in to the initiative.

The Waikato trial phase

Fifteen schools and kura from the Waikato region were invited to take part in a trial phase, providing free pads and tampons for up to 3,200 menstruating young people. We wanted to work with a small group of schools and young people 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 providing products and being involved 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 extra pads and tampons at school for emergencies. Other schools had dispensers installed in the bathrooms or product available 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 how providing product at school helped to reduce the stigma around menstruation for their students.

List of schools and kura in the Waikato trial phase

School or kura District
Te Awamutu Intermediate South Waikato
Te Kūiti High School  South Waikato
Tokoroa High School South Waikato
Paeroa College  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

Phase one

Feedback from the trial schools and kura highlighted the urgent need for period products. To address this, our primary focus for phase one was to deliver products to schools and kura as simply and as quickly as possible.

From June 2021, schools and kura that opt-in to the initiative can order pads and tampons using an existing distribution system.

A variety of packs of pads and tampons are available. These products are easy to use and appropriate for a broad range of students’ age, developmental, and cultural needs in the schooling context. Schools and kura can order based on their roll number, similar to ordering any other essential supply. Enough product is provided so that students can effectively manage their whole menstrual cycle and take product home to avoid being caught without.

For phase one, products and distribution were sourced via a tender process. Crimson Organic, Organic Initiative, Kimberly-Clark and The Warehouse Group, as well as Blue Star as the distributor were selected. 

Feedback from phase one 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 two or three female students in a household.”

Schools can continue to opt-in and receive product as we continue through to the second phase of implementation.

Phase two

We have learnt from the both the trial and phase one that students value choice in the type and size of product provided and how they get it, such as dispensers in bathrooms, ordering a bulk supply, or access via a trusted staff member. For phase two, we are refining the delivery model so that schools and kura can:

  • have product dispensers installed so that students can access products discreetly and have then available if they are caught unprepared (in schools and kura with over 100 estimated menstruating students)
  • order a variety of products to meet student needs
  • access educational resources.

Suppliers have been selected through a tender process. Essity and OfficeMax will work as partners to implement phase two.

Phase two is being rolled out from the start of 2022. Schools and kura will gradually transition to the new distribution system so that students can continue to access products without interruption. Schools and kura can continue to opt-in as we implement phase two.

Phase two has begun with installing dispensers in schools and kura with over 100 estimated menstruating students. In February 2022, these were first installed in around 10 eligible secondary schools and kura to test how they will work. Dispensers are now being rolled out to all other eligible schools. It is expected that all schools and kura who want and are eligible for dispenser units will have them installed by the end of Term 2, 2022. Once installed, schools and kura will be able to order product through OfficeMax. As this stage, schools will have access to a wider range of product, including smaller products and pads with wings.

Schools who are not eligible for dispenser units will continue to order product from Down the Back of the Chair. We anticipate that all schools and kura will be ordering from OfficeMax by the end of Term 3.

As part of the Phase Two we will also explore how we can strengthen education about ikura for learners and the adults around them.

Ikura|Manaakitia te whare tangata: Information and resources

List of schools and kura who have opted-in (Jan 2023) [XLSX, 101 KB]

Non-branded products

Non-branded products will be available from Term 4, 2022. This change will remove the day-to-day influence and perceived value of branded product on students and their families, and normalise period products as a necessity. No other changes have been made to the products provided by the initiative.


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

A further $25.6 million will fund the national roll-out until June 2024.

Other wellbeing initiatives

Being able to go to school every day 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.

Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata removes one of the 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.

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