All New Zealand Schools Will Now Provide Free Period Products To Students

All New Zealand Schools Will Now Provide Free Period Products To Students

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced that this program would roll out in June this year, to tackle period poverty.

The New Zealand government has announced that starting June, all schools will offer free sanitary products to their students. This is an expansion of the pilot project that was launched last year, which was an attempt to end period poverty, reported NPR. This will include all primary, intermediate, secondary school, and Kura, or Maori-language immersion schools students, who will have access to free period products. The announcement was made on Thursday by the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and was presented along with Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti.




This is a welcome move from the government in New Zealand. Principals and poverty groups have been saying for many years that period poverty has kept some students away from school during their periods. They end up skipping school because they are not able to afford the sanitary products to manage their period hygienically. According to The Guardian, some principals have even reported that some students had resorted to using toilet paper, newspaper, and phone books to manage their menstruation. This could have serious health implications for the person using unsanitary methods to manage their period. 




“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” Ardern said in a statement. “Removing barriers to healthy, active, educational outcomes for children and young people is an important part of the Government’s Youth and Wellbeing Strategy.” The previous year, the Access to Period Products pilot program was running since Term 3 in 15 schools and Kura in the Waikato region. This pilot project gave free period products to about 3,200 young people. “The positive response from schools and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and Kura,” Ardern said about the new initiative.




A universal issue with regard to menstruation is the stigma that comes with it even though it is a natural and healthy process for girls, transgender men, and nonbinary persons. This also reflected in the feedback from the pilot product where issues seemed to include not only the stigma but also embarrassment, being ‘caught out’ without product, cost, lack of knowledge, and discomfort. Students of Fairfield College in Hamilton, which took part in the pilot said that period products should be made available for all who need them when they need them.




“Feedback from the pilot noted that providing choice was important, both in types of products and the way they are accessed," Tinetti said. "Students also said they wanted information about periods, period products, and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance.” Schools can start choosing to be a part of the initiative and for those who opt-in by March, the Ministry of Education working with suppliers will ensure period products will be made available towards the end of Term 2. Schools can continue to opt-in at a later date as well.




“Providing free period products at school is one way the Government can directly address poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing,” said Ardern. “We want to see improved engagement, learning and behavior, fewer young people missing school because of their period, and reduced financial hardship amongst families of participating students.” Tinetti added, “The free period products in school’s initiative is the latest in a series of Government programs to reduce barriers to education for all students and their whānau (extended family in Māori). Others in the series include healthy free school lunches, the abolition of exam fees, and the replacement of school donations."



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