Period poverty is a term that describes where girls or women are unable to afford or access sufficient menstrual hygiene products.
It is often seen as a problem confined to developing countries, but several studies have exposed that period poverty impacts millions of people in the world’s richest nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. That’s why the New Zealand government said Wednesday that it will provide free sanitary products in schools across the country in an effort to tackle period poverty.
The New Zealand government is investing NZ$2.6 million ($1.7 million) in the initiative, which will be first rolled out at 15 schools in the Waikato region of the country’s North Island during term three of this year. The program will then expand nationwide to all state schools by 2021.
A health and well-being survey from New Zealand-based Youth19 found 12% of students in Year 9 to 13 (ages 12 to 18) who menstruate reported difficulty accessing sanitary products due to affordability. And around one in 12 students reported having missed school due to a lack of access to sanitary products.
“Menstruation is a fact of life for half the population, and access to these products is a necessity, not a luxury,” said New Zealand’s Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter.
The initiative is part of a wider effort to reduce child poverty in the country.