New Zealand will start providing free sanitary products in schools in a step Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said aims to support children and young people in poverty.
“We know that nearly 95,000 9- to 18-year-olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products. By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school,” Ardern said in a statement Wednesday.
The rollout of the products, which is part of a $2.6 million government investment, will begin at 15 schools in the Waikato district and will expand to all state schools on an opt-in basis in 2021.
Arden said the push is part of a larger plan for the government to reduce child poverty by half over the next decade.
“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,” she added.
The prime minister’s announcement cited a survey from New Zealand-based Youth19 that found 12 percent of students between the ages 12 to 18 who menstruate reported difficulty getting access to products due to cost.
About 1 in 12 students reported having missed school due to a lack of access to sanitary products, the survey found.
“Menstruation is a fact of life for half the population and access to these products is a necessity, not a luxury,” Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said.
“We want an Aotearoa New Zealand where all people have access to education and the things they need to live a good life — I am so pleased this government is finding ways of helping children and young people, at a time when every extra bit of assistance is important," she added.
New Zealand is the latest country to announce such an effort.
Last year, England said it would start providing free sanitary products to high school students, CNN notes, and the Scottish parliament approved legislation in February that aims to ensure free universal access to period products.