Addressing period poverty in schools

Today, we’re taking the next step in our work to support children and young people in poverty, starting to roll out free period products in more than 1,600 schools and kura across New Zealand.

We know that nearly 95,000 young people in New Zealand may stay at home during their periods because they cannot afford period products. We’re ensuring more young people can access the products they need, when they need them, so they can focus on what’s important – their education.

By making these products freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school, as part of our wider efforts to combat child poverty, help improve school attendance, and make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing.

The nationwide expansion – with products provided to all state and state-integrated schools on an opt-in basis – comes after a successful start to the roll-out in 15 Waikato schools.

So far, 1,680 schools and kura have opted in to the programme, meaning the nationwide roll-out will be able to reach more than 300,000 female students – or around 75% of eligible students who likely menstruate.

The initiative has been warmly received by school students, principals, and counsellors, as well as period poverty campaigners and other child wellbeing advocates.

Here’s what people are saying about the programme:

  • “There’s less of a reason not to come to school. … I was really impressed to see it’s making a difference and a statistically significant difference to young women.”
    Amy Hacker, Principal of Paeroa College

“Good on the Government for taking a stand and not forcing families to choose between food on the table or sanitary products for their daughters.”

Stephanie Ockhuysen, Stuff

  • “We are living under a Government that genuinely cares about people with periods, and is just as excited to be working with schools, community groups, charities, businesses and individuals to change the way periods are managed, as we all are with them.”
    The Period Place

“It’s an awesome idea. It's incredible that we have the opportunity to have period products for free.”

Sarah Watson, student at Paeroa College

  • “This is a very exciting and momentous occasion for human rights and therefore women’s rights in New Zealand. It’s a giant step towards gender equity in schools – and life.”
    Vicki Scott, Crimson Organic

 “For students, a lack of access to period products not only exacerbates feelings of shame and a gendered financial burden but has shown to increase absenteeism. …It’s a fantastic investment from our government.”

Miranda Hitchings, Dignity

Providing free period products is just one way we’re removing barriers to learning for young people. We’ve also started rolling out free lunches in schools, and made going to school cheaper by scrapping NCEA fees and funding the removal of school donations.

These initiatives are part of our broader work to address poverty and inequality. Our Families Package provided the biggest boost in household income in a decade for thousands of families. Cheaper doctors’ visits, an increased minimum wage, and the historic boost to benefits in Budget 2021 – among other initiatives – are all working to break the cycle of poverty and ensure our recovery from COVID leaves no one behind.

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