An overwhelming majority of New Zealanders would like to see public schools in the country offer free period products to students.

An informal poll on the Herald Facebook page shows that most New Zealanders believe pads, tampons and menstrual cups should be available free of charge for students, in an effort to fight period poverty.

The post on the Herald Facebook page asked people if they believe New Zealand should follow England's lead and introduce free period products in public schools.

The poll received more than 11,600 responses in just five hours. At the time of writing, close to 11,000 people had voted "yes", while 813 voted "no".

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In the comments section, New Zealanders expressed their desire to see a policy in place similar to the one recently implemented in England.

"Voted yes. My parents provided hygiene products (not just sanitary) to several girls I befriended at high school who were bullied etc because of their situation. One poor girl was using newspaper and her parents wouldn't get her deodorant, shavers or anything. At 14 what was she supposed to do?" one reader commented.

"Great idea. It's bad enough dealing with them. If it makes a daunting time easier for young people that is a good thing," another person said.

State-funded schools in England have just made free period products available to students. Should New Zealand follow suit? Let us know what you think in the comments below. ⤵️⤵️

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Sunday, 16 February 2020

"Toilet paper is free, urinating and defecating are bodily functions. period products aren't free and that's a natural bodily function too. So, um, to be consistent in accommodating for natural bodily functions that mostly everyone experiences, we should," another reader replied.

"I vote yes. Doesn't mean everyone will use them, it just means they are available to those who need them. Girls, who have zero choice over period and while at school zero choice if parents can't afford them, shouldn't be having to use old cut T-shirts or wads of toilet paper," someone else said.

One Facebook user shared the story of how her teacher's generosity helped students in need: "Our lovely teacher last year gave each girl a makeup pack with pads in them, to keep in their bags. Just in case. Each had the same, so no one was teased for having them. Thought it was a fab idea."

England has just rolled out a new police that will see publicly funded schools receiving money for period products for their students.

Similar policies are already in place in Scotland and Wales.

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Period poverty is a "personal priority" for Prime Minister

A petition calling on the Government to provide sanitary products for all students, which gathered more than 3000 signatures, was presented to Woman's Minister Julie Anne Genter last November.

At the time, the minister said some sort of action would be taken on the subject ahead of the Government's 2020 budget.

Genter said the issue of period poverty was a priority for the Government and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says tackling period poverty is a 'personal priority' for her
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Ardern said at the time that the issue is something she is "personally looking into and working on some ideas and solutions".

She added that the Government was looking into it "actively" and was looking to make decisions before the Budget.

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The petition was presented to MPs by Jacinta Gulasekharam, co-founder of Dignity – an organisation that provides access to sanitary items for all women in New Zealand.

She wants to see a commitment from the Government to have sanitary products in all schools across the country, including reusable options, as well as comprehensive menstrual health education.

Kiwi teens missing school because of period poverty

A survey from KidsCan in 2018 showed that nearly a quarter of New Zealand women have missed school or work because they couldn't afford period products.

From the more than 5000 responses, the KidsCan survey found that 53.1 per cent of woman had found it difficult to access sanitary items due to their cost at some point (and 44.5 per cent said that happens to them "occasionally", not just as a one-off).

A total of 23.6 per cent of women said they had had to miss school or work because they did not have sanitary products to wear.

A third of the survey respondents revealed they had to prioritise buying food rather than sanitary products. Most (53.8 per cent) said they resorted to toilet paper, while 7.7 per cent said they had used rags, 3 per cent used old cloths and many mentioned using disposable or cloth nappies.

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Teenagers are particularly affected by period poverty in New Zealand. According to KidsCan, 29 per cent of respondents aged 15-17 said they had missed school for lack of sanitary wear.