New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern said today Thursday that every school would make free menstrual products available to students for the next three years, adding New Zealand to the global effort to reduce “period poverty” — a lack of access to pads or tampons that could negatively affect education, health or employment.
According to the Prime Minister, the program will start in June this year following a six-month pilot program that provided free period products to about 3,200 students in 15 schools.
Ardern said that the “positive response” from the trial encouraged her to expand the initiative nationwide.
“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 Thursday.
“Removing barriers to healthy, active, educational outcomes for children and young people is an important part of the Government’s Youth and Wellbeing Strategy.”
Jacinda Ardern said that the initiative would help increase school attendance and improve children’s well-being.
“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,” she said.
Arden said research showed one in 12 children missed school due to period poverty — a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities or waste management.
Jan Tinetti the Minister for Women said issues surrounding periods in schools include embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, lack of products, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.
“Feedback from the pilot noted that providing choice was important, both in types of products and the way they are accessed,” said Tinetti, who is also the associate education minister. “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.”
Ardern said the initiative will cost $17.96 million through 2024, Reuters reports.