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New Zealand schools to offer free sanitary products to defeat period poverty

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Feb 18, 2021 3:52 am

All New Zealand schools are set to have free access to sanitary products starting in June, an effort to put an end to the country’s period poverty, which afflicts not only developing countries but also the world’s richest nations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement Thursday came following a successful pilot project launched in June 2020, which provided free period products to 15 schools in the Waikato region.

“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 well-being,” Ardern said in a statement.

According to Ardern, research shows that one in 12 students are missing school because of period poverty, where women or girls don’t have the capacity to afford or have access to even basic period products.

The program will reportedly cost NZ$25 million (over P800 million) up to to 2024.

“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,” noted Ardern.

Minister of Women Jan Tinetti noted the issue with period in school includes embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, being caught out without product, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.

New Zealand is among several countries that took a step to address and tackle this issue. In 2019, England rolled out a period product scheme that provides free sanitary products to secondary and college students.

In November 2020, Scotland took a stand against period poverty and approved the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Bill. The approval of the bill made the country the first in the world to make sanitary products free to all women.

Countries like Germany, Kenya, South Africa, Canada, Australia, India Poland, France, Spain and several US states have reduced or completely removed the sale tax on sanitary products.

According to a recent report by humanitarian organization Plan International, one in three girls and women surveyed in the Pacific said that period products had become harder to find during the pandemic, while one in five surveyed reported that sanitary products cost had risen since the pandemic started.

Plan International attributed the increase in prices to limited supplies of sanitary products, while survey participants suggest that prices in some areas have been “opportunistically inflated.”