Free period products in schools to combat poverty

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
  • Hon Julie Anne Genter
Prime Minister Child Poverty Reduction Women

Young people in Waikato will be the first to have free access to period products in schools in another step to support children and young people in poverty,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

 During term 3, the Ministry of Education will begin providing free period products to schools following the Government’s $2.6 million investment. The roll-out will begin at 15 Waikato schools and be expanded to all state and state-integrated schools on an opt-in basis in 2021.

 “We know that nearly 95,000 9-to-18 year olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products. By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 “Our plan to halve child poverty in 10 years is making a difference but there is more to do and with families hit hard by the COVID-19 global pandemic, it’s important to increase that support in the areas it can make an immediate difference.

 “This is another important initiative that sits alongside our work to reduce child poverty and hardship including the $5.5bn Families Package, free lunches in schools, cheaper visits to the doctors, stopping schools asking for donations, and lifting benefits,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter thanked the researchers and campaigners who have helped to raise the issue of the prohibitive cost of period products for some families and the subsequent absence from school for some children and young people.

 “Menstruation is a fact of life for half the population and access to these products is a necessity, not a luxury,” Julie Anne Genter said.

 “We want an Aotearoa New Zealand where all people have access to education and the things they need to live a good life – I am so pleased this Government is finding ways of helping children and young people, at a time when every extra bit of assistance is important.”

 Notes to editor

Images attached – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter met with The Period Place positive period campaigners Danika Revell and Sarah Mikkelsen, Dignity NZ’s Co-Founder and Positive Periods Campaign Lead Jacinta Gulasekharam, public health researcher, Otago University Wellington, Dr Sarah Donovan, CEO of Nest Consulting Robyn Fausett and Wā Collective’s Meg Rea at the Prime Minister’s office this week to discuss the details of the investment and roll-out of products to schools from term 3, 2020.

Why Waikato?

In the first instance 20 per cent of schools from across New Zealand with the highest concentration of socio-economic disadvantage were identified to ensure the programme reached those communities experiencing the greatest hardship. Schools were then grouped by region. The Waikato was selected as a region that provided a wide mix of settings across a relatively small geographic area. The schools won’t be named until they have fully considered and opted in to the Ministry of Education programme. The programme will be expanded through 2021.

Further information

This initiative will contribute to the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, in addition to the 75 initiatives included when it was launched last year.

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. Approximately one in 12 students reported having missed school due to lack of access to sanitary products. This trend is worse for lower decile schools, but barriers to access exist for students in schools of all deciles.

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