Jacinda Ardern wants to end period poverty. And so New Zealand government on Wednesday announced that it will arrange free sanitary pads in schools across the country. This is with the intent to provide women sufficient menstrual hygiene products when they are unable to afford them.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a statement said, “almost 95,000 girls in the country aged 9 to 18 are forced to stay home during their period and are not able to attend school as they are unable to afford pads and tampons.” She further went on to add that “By making them freely available, we support these young women to continue learning at school”. Moreover, it was mentioned that sanitary supplies for periods are not a luxury rather it is a necessity and too many girls are being deprived of it, due to which they are skipping school.

Period Poverty

The New Zealand government is putting $1.7 million for this project, which will be first rolled out at 15 schools in the Waikato region of the country’s North Island. This initiative will then expand nationwide to all state schools by 2021.

Several studies have shed light on the fact that period poverty is not only confined to developing countries. A health and well-being survey from New Zealand- based Youth19 revealed that 12% of students from 12 to 18, who menstruate face difficulty in accessing sanitary pads due to affordability. This is true for many countries including India.

“When you, through no fault of your own, don’t have access to basic human needs, that really impacts how you see yourself, it erodes your sense of worth, your sense of self, your sense of mana (essence or spiritual power in Maori),” said Caro Attinkson, a counselor at the He Huarahi Tamariki school in the capital of New Zealand.

The bigger picture

Also according to UNICEF, girls who are not able to afford basic menstrual hygiene products across the world resort to using rags, old clothes, newspapers, hay, sand, or even ash.

Jacinda Ardern also advocated that this action is a part of a much bigger picture to reduce child poverty in the country. She also said, “Our plan to halve child poverty in 10 years is making a difference but there is more to do and with families hit hard by the COVID-19 global pandemic, it’s important to increase that support in the areas it can make an immediate difference”

New Zealand is not the only country to have taken this initiative. Last year, England also declared it would supply free sanitary products to high school students. The Scottish parliament has also announced to ensure free universal access to menstrual hygiene products.

Shreya is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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