Ikura|Manaakitia te whare tangata Period products in schools: FAQs

The Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata initiative aims to provide free period products to children and young people in all schools and kura across New Zealand. 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 products and different ways to access them.

How is the initiative being implemented?

We are taking a phased approach to this initiative:

  • Initial trial phase with 15 Waikato schools and kura in 2020
  • Phase One: from June 2021, 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: from March 2022, refining distribution and tailoring service. Phase One will continue until Phase Two is fully implemented, to ensure there is no interruption to product provision for students and school 

Why are we providing period products 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.

How do schools and kura opt-in?

Any state or state-integrated school or kura in New Zealand can choose to opt-in to receive free period products for all students.

To opt-in to the initiative, please email AccessToPeriodProducts@education.govt.nz with your school details and best contact.

Does the initiative include primary, intermediate and secondary schools?

Yes, 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 products in primary and intermediate, as well as secondary schools and kura, is needed.

It is also available for alternative education centres, activity centres, teen parent units, Te Kura correspondence and health schools.

Why is the initiative offered to schools and kura 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. It provides access and choice for any school 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.

What if our school is already providing period products for our students?

Schools and kura can still 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.

How will students access products?

For Phase One product delivery, each school or kura arranged an appropriate way for students to collect products discreetly depending on what worked best at their school. This may be from the school office, a teacher, counsellor or other trusted adult. Schools also had the option to order brown paper bags for students to take product home in. 

For Phase Two, students should continue to be bale to collect products directly from central points if these are already working well. In addition, schools and kura with over 100 menstruators can choose to have dispensers installed on site, eg in bathrooms, so that students can discreetly access products if they are caught unprepared.

How much product is provided?

Schools are encouraged to ensure students have enough product to take home and manage their full menstrual cycle. 

What products are available to order?

Schools and kura are able to order 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. We are also exploring other products, such as panty liners to be available to order. Long term availability of these new products will depend on uptake from students.

Brown paper bags are also available to support students to discretely access and take-home product.

At this stage applicator tampons are not available to order through the initiative. Research on what students prefer and how they use products has informed which products have been chosen, and which are easy to use and appropriate for students.

As this initiative develops, we will explore more how we can support the use of sustainable products, such as reusable menstrual cups and period underwear, alongside educating students around these products. Whilst other 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 continue to seek feedback from schools, kura and students and reassess the product range if needed.

Why is product non-branded?

We know students can be heavily influenced by branding and marketing. Product available through the initiative will be non-branded from Term 3, 2022. This will remove the day-to-day influence and perceived value of branded product on students, especially younger students and their families, and normalise period products as a necessity. Removing branding will also minimise the impact of this contract on other suppliers in the market.

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.

All tampons supplied must meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard for Tampons [NZ: AS/NZS 2869: 1998](external link).

Educational resources are also being developed to support safe use of products.

Hygienic disposal of pads and tampons through the use of sanitary bins is already managed by schools.

How do you source period products for schools?

For Phase One, four suppliers were selected by open tender to provide products – Oi; Kimberley Clark (U by Kotex) The Warehouse Group and Crimson Organic. Blue Star were chosen as the distributor of products to schools and kura from the four suppliers.

For Phase Two, as the result of a tender process we have selected Essity and OfficeMax as a joint partnership to supply and deliver 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. Essity took part in the 2020 Waikato trial and have experience providing period products to schools in Victoria, Australia.  OfficeMax are one of the main distributors of stationery and other school supplies, with 88 percent of schools familiar with and already ordering through their online portal. They are already in partnership with Essity as a supplier of other school bathroom products.

Does the initiative also provide sanitary bins?

Schools and kura are responsible for the day-to-day management of the initiative including appropriate sanitary disposal. This is detailed in the Memorandum of Understanding.

How is the initiative impacted by the COVID-19 Protection Framework?

In the COVID-19 Protection Framework (CPF, also know as the traffic light system), schools and kura are open on site across all settings with public health measures in place. Schools and kura can continue to order product. We encourage schools to make sure students are taking enough product home with them in case they have to isolate or there is a school closure.

How much funding is provided for the initiative and for how long?

Funding of $2.6 million for the first fifteen months of this initiative was met from the Prime Minister’s Emerging Priorities Fund. Funding of approximately $100,000 was made available to provide products up to fifteen schools in the Waikato.

Additional funding of $25.6 million has been secured for the national roll-out until June 2024.

Who can we contact for enquiries? 

Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata, period products in schools team can be reached at AccessToPeriodProducts@education.govt.nz.

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