Manurewa MP Louisa Wall has asked consumers to add pads and tampons to their shopping lists, in order to help young women who are unable to afford them.

The Labour Youth Affairs spokesperson told the Herald more than one secondary school principal in her electorate asked for her help because students were experiencing a shortage of sanitary items, due to their cost.

"Some girls stay home when it's their period because they cannot afford sanitary products.

Others resort to makeshift and unhygienic measures such as recycling used pads or improvising pads from old clothes, rags, newspapers and other materials-putting them at risk of infection and sickness," said Mrs Wall.


In light of the increasing need, Mrs Wall has teamed up with Countdown, the Salvation Army and web developer Lucid, to launch an online initiative allowing shoppers to donate $15 women's hygiene bundles, to young women who go without sanitary products.

The campaign, which is part of the Foodbank Project, will allow consumers to make a one-off donation or contribute monthly. The hygiene bundles will be given to vulnerable women via the Salvation Army's foodbanks.

Major Pam Waugh, head of Salvation Army Community Ministries, said requests for sanitary items had been "steadily increasing" over the last year, as prices have risen.

Many women, particularly mums with teenage daughters, who were receiving food parcels through the organisation's Lifeskills programme had been "quietly asking" for pads and tampons to be included in their hampers.

Young Labour president Nevada Lee-Mariu encouraged shoppers to donate to the cause.
Lee-Mariu who is studying political science at Victoria University, said almost every female student she had spoken to had struggled to buy tampons and pads at some point in their lives. She estimated the number of students at her university affected by the high cost of sanitary products to be "easily in the thousands".

Many young women echoed Lee-Mariu's comments on social media.

"There are many women in situations where the everyday necessity is not readily available to them whether it be due to lack of funds or proximity," said one Facebook user.

Another woman highlighted inequalities between the funding of condoms and sanitary items: "If they can afford to give guys free condoms then women should be able to get free tampons and sanitary pads. Menstruation is a lot harder to refrain from than sex".


KidsCan health manager Julia Haydon-Carr said many of the schools the charity supports requested pads and tampons.

Using funding from the Ministry of Social Development KidsCan has provided 568 primary, intermediate and secondary schools with 3,900 packets of sanitary items over the past three months.

The project was "sustainable"; KidsCan would continue to provide the items in the future as long as they were required by schools, Haydon-Carr said.

"It's a difficult issue, because it's such a private thing."

Waugh said improving access to sanitary items could help to reduce other inequalities in society.

"We know that poverty can follow people throughout their lifetime, so it's essential students who are making every effort to improve their future prospects are not held back because it's 'that time of the month'."

Wall agreed. "We need to establish interventions that will empower our girls and young women so they are not marginalised simply because they are menstruating," she says.

Countdown general manager corporate affairs, James Walker, said Countdown hopes the women's hygiene bundles will "fulfil an important community need".
The supermarket chain's supplier Kimberley-Clark got on board with the project, donating $2,500 worth of sanitary products.