New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that all schools in the country will soon offer free menstrual products to students, amid fears that “period poverty” is forcing some to skip class.
Period poverty refers to a situation where low income earners are unable to easily afford or access pads or tampons—a dilemma that can in turn negatively affect education, health or employment. A study published by the charity KidsCan last year found that up to 20,000 New Zealand students were at risk of not being able to afford tampons or other sanitary products.
Ardern indicated that one in 12 young people in New Zealand were missing school as a result, and declared that providing free menstrual products was one way to address the problem and “make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing.”
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” she said outside a school in Hamilton, a city on New Zealand’s north island.
New Zealand’s Maori and Pacific Island immigrant communities are statistically more likely to be affected by period poverty, as well as poverty in general, according to a study led by the University of Otago’s Sarah Donovan.That study found that 15 percent of Maori students and 14 percent of Pacific students missed school because they did not have menstrual items.
The scheme will commence in June and run for three years, with a cost of 25 million New Zealand dollars ($17.96 million).
Last year Scotland became the first country to announce that it would make period products freely available to “anyone who needs them”, including in public places. Free period products were also rolled out in all primary and secondary schools in England last year, as well as a handful of US states.
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