The New Zealand government is backing a program to help ensure young girls can continue their education even if they can’t afford period products.
After receiving guidance from researchers and campaigners, the government announced on Wednesday that it will invest $2.6 million to provide period products to high school students, according to the Guardian.
Fifteen schools in the country’s Waikato region were identified as having the biggest need and will receive free period products as early as the third term of this school year. Schools nationwide will have the option to join the program in 2021.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is championing the decision.
Today we met with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women on the roll-out of period products in schools.— Dignity (@tweetDignity) June 3, 2020
With the impact Dignity has created in 3 1/2 years we reiterated the importance of choice, easy access and making sure to empower not stigmatise those needing products 🥰 pic.twitter.com/u39hebhsWh
“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,” Ardern said, according to the Guardian. “By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school.”
Schools in impoverished areas in New Zealand reported that girls were resorting to using toilet paper and unsafe materials, including newspapers or rags, to manage their period because they did not have access to period products.
“Menstruation is a fact of life for half the population and access to these products is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Julie Anne Genter, New Zealand’s minister for women, according to the Guardian.
The exact number of children in New Zealand who miss school because of period poverty is unknown due to lack of sufficient data, but analysis by the University of Otago estimates 94,788 girls between the ages 9 and 18 may not be able to afford period products.
Menstrual advocates around the world are working to ensure everyone has the resources and information they need to manage their periods safely.
While free tampons and pads alone won’t end period poverty, providing these basic necessities is an important first step to limit shame around menstruation and empower people to reach their full potential.