Supply ingfree period products to all schools will help address inequities, a Tauranga principal says.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti, who is based in the Bay of Plenty, announced today that from June, all primary, intermediate and secondary school and kura students would have access to free period products.
The announcement follows a successful Access to Period Products pilot, which has been running since Term 3 last year in 15 schools and kura in the Waikato region.
"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.
"Removing barriers to healthy, active, educational outcomes for children and young people is an important part of the Government's Youth and Wellbeing Strategy."
Ardern said feedback from students was that period products should be made available for all who needed them when they needed them.
"The positive response from schools and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura."
About 3200 young people were given period products during the pilot.
Tauranga Girls' College principal Tara Kanji said period poverty was "very real".
"Initiatives like this, which address equity, or rather inequity, is appreciated.
"We purchase and support some of our girls already but would certainly prefer to spend that on learning and teaching resources. This roll out will certainly allow us to redirect that spending.
"While the spending on this is not huge, we want to ensure that girls can attend school and have confidence in managing their period with the right products."
Otumoetai Primary School principal Zara McIndoe said the impact at primary school age would be minimal but the initiative was appreciated.
"From time to time students require these products from us and that cost currently comes out of our school budget.
"It is kept on the down-low but students know they can come to the office to access these products when needed.
"Having free products in all schools will have a greater impact at the intermediate and secondary school levels but I'm sure it will be well received across the board."
Tauranga Intermediate School principal Cameron Mitchell said all students should have equitable access to period products.
"This initiative will help ensure no students are disadvantaged in this way."
The school's youth mentor team leader Lyn Aitken said period poverty had always been a problem throughout the years and the school had supplied period products.
"It was deemed a priority enough for us to intervene. We do everything we can to make sure students feel safe and supported."
KidsCan has been providing free period products to schools since 2015 and chief executive Julie Chapman says Covid-19 has seen more families forced to choose between buying period products or food.
"Period inequity is creating huge anxiety in our already vulnerable young girls. It is a barrier to an education they desperately need to get out of poverty.
"In New Zealand, no one should be missing school because they don't have period products. It is a basic human right."
KidsCan's programme reaches more than a third of public schools in New Zealand and last year distributed more than 130,000 packs of products to students across the country.
Tinetti said issues with periods at school included embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, being "caught out" without product, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.
"The free period products in school's initiative is the latest in a series of Government programmes to reduce barriers to education for all students and their whānau."
The Ministry of Education will work with suppliers to manage a phased roll-out of the scheme, with period products available towards the end of Term 2 for schools and kura that opt in by March of this year.
Those schools and kura that do not initially choose to take up the initiative will be able to opt in later.