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Girls & Women

New Zealand Supermarket Cuts Cost of Sanitary Products to Tackle Period Poverty

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Access to safe menstrual hygiene is a right and necessity, not a luxury item. Global Citizen campaigns on the UN Global Goals including universal access to adequate sanitation and healthcare. You can take action here.

For most women, to think of menstruation is often to think of pain, discomfort, and ultimately inconvenience. However, for disadvantaged women going through a rough time, the anxiety is amplified when their period arrives and menstruation products are financially out of reach.

In an effort to tackle period poverty, a major New Zealand supermarket chain is cutting the price of women’s sanitary products to make them more accessible for low-income and disadvantaged Kiwi women.

Countdown Supermarkets have slashed the price of their house-brand tampons, liners, and pads — some by up to 50%. The move is anticipated to save New Zealand women around $750,000 NZ a year.

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Countdown corporate affairs general manager Kiri Hannifin stated the number of women who were unable to afford the price of tampons and pads was increasing in New Zealand, and the company wanted to step up and address the issue while the nation waited for political decisions around the removal of the goods and services tax (GST) from sanitary products. Tampons and sanitary napkins in New Zealand are currently slapped with a 15% GST fee.

"Too many women go without sanitary products themselves so they can provide essentials like food and rent for their family," Hannifin stated. "The fact that not all women and girls can access them is something Countdown felt we wanted to help address."

Last April, New Zealand’s Pharmaceutical Management Agency rejected a bid to fund the hygiene products, claiming they did not classify as medicines or medically necessary.

Years of inadequate government action pushed Countdown, the Salvation Army, and South Auckland MP Louisa Wall to launch an initiative in 2016 that filled the foodbanks of organisation The Foodbank Project with donated menstrual hygiene products. Thanks to the scheme, more than $190,000 worth of tampons, pads and liners were donated.

"Female sanitary products aren't a luxury but for Kiwi girls, women and families on tight budgets or low incomes, they're an expense that is simply out of reach. We've all got to work together to address this issue and make it easier to ask for help," Wall stated. "Period poverty limits opportunities for current and future generations of Kiwi women and the impact is much greater than missing a few days of school or not participating in sport or other social activities every month."

Being unable to afford the correct products or simply the shame of asking for assistance often see women and girls substituting tampons and pads for old rags, newspapers or socks.

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Wellington based organisation Go With The Flow attempts to tackle period poverty by building relationships with individuals and businesses and providing menstural hygiene products to those in desperate need.

Founders Laura Henderson and Natasha Pennell applauded the move by Countdown as a fantastic first step.

"Big kudos to them for jumping on board. To have recognition from major companies is a huge step in the right direction," Henderson stated.

Related Stories July 22, 2018 India Ends Controversial Tampon and Sanitary Napkin Tax

Various countries worldwide fail to offer tax free tampons and sanitary napkins. Australia currently has a 10% tampon tax rate while the United Kingdom taxes sanitary products at a rate of 5%. In Slovakia, the products are taxed at 20%.

Public discourse is mounting to remove the tampon tax globally, with women's rights groups, activists and politicians demanding the products be considered a necessity instead of a luxury item. The movement is slowly making way. In a massive win for rights groups, India declared tampons and sanitary napkins tax free on July 22 after taxing them at 12% since 2017.