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Jacinda Ardern announces free sanitary products for schoolgirls to fight period poverty

Jacinda Ardern announces free sanitary products for schoolgirls to fight period poverty

In a move to address period poverty, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the government will be providing free sanitary products to New Zealand schools.

Jacinda Ardern announces free sanitary products for schoolgirls to fight period poverty

The $2.6 million investment is first being rolled out at 15 Waikato schools and will be expanded to all state and state-integrated schools in an opt-in basis from 2021.

Ardern says the initiative hopes to address a significant, yet often unspoken, issue around poverty.

“We know that nearly 95,000 young people miss out on school and other activities during their periods because they can’t afford products,” shared the Prime Minister.

“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.”

Dignity NZ, one of the organisations supporting the initiative, says they welcome the government’s support in trying to tackle this issue.

“Whether you’re caught short or you are living in poverty you should be able to access these products without having that stigma attached. Whether that it’s freely available in the bathrooms or at the nurse’s office, there’s really easy ways for schools to just have those items out for students to easily get,” said Dignity NZ co-founder Jacinta Gulasekharam.

A recent KidsCan survey found that a quarter of New Zealand women report having missed school or work because they have been unable to afford sanitary items.

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

Nadia Key, founder of the La Luna Project, a charity that supplies period packs to schools in New Zealand, spoke to MiNDFOOD about the need to eliminate the stigma around period.

“A lot of girls are quite ashamed and scared and don’t know at that age how to approach it. Kids won’t come to school, or they’ll lock themselves in bathrooms,” says Key. “It’s about educating rather than making them feel silly for not knowing.”

Read our interview with La Luna, the small Kiwi business tackling the big issues of poverty. 

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