On June 3, 2020, the parliamentary government of New Zealand announced an initiative designed to combat one of the most pervasive but least discussed forms of poverty across the globe; period poverty. The initiative will provide free sanitary products (tampons and pads) through a school-based program in order to alleviate period poverty in New Zealand. The investment will start small in the Waikato region, the 11th poorest region in New Zealand.
What is Period Poverty?
Period poverty exists in nearly every country across the globe, albeit to varying degrees. No matter the location, one could easily find an individual who is struggling to pay for proper sanitary products. One can define period poverty as a lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, handwashing facilities or proper waste management. Period poverty most commonly exists in developing but isolated nations.
Prime Minister Arden Answers the Call
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought the real facts of period poverty to the general public explaining how it affects the women and girls of not only New Zealand but also other countries across the globe. Expectations have determined that the government will roll out a NZ$2.6 million ($1.7 million) program providing free sanitary products through schools across the country. At first, the program will only exist in 15 schools in the Waikato district of New Zealand with plans to expand nationwide by 2021.
While New Zealand does not have a national index to measure the poverty levels of various communities, using a fixed-line analysis showed that roughly 15% of the total population of New Zealand lives in poverty. Similar to other products (unfortunately even medical ones), the price of sanitary products fluctuates fairly rapidly depending on the brand. On average the cost of a package of tampons in New Zealand is roughly NZ$5.50. With women typically having 480 periods throughout their lifetime, that brings the total long-term out-of-pocket cost to NZ$2,640 if the individual only buys Bargen tampons.
Eliminating Period Poverty in New Zealand
The New Zealand government believes that through this initiative, it can begin to cut childhood poverty by half in the next decade. In her speech on June 3, Prime Minister Ardern said that roughly 95,000 girls between the ages of 9-18 miss school and other activities due to a lack of access to proper sanitary products.
One of the perceived and anticipated effects of this program would be to allow children the opportunity to continue with their daily activities despite their period. Providing free sanitary products and education on menstrual health will do just that, all the while ensuring that individuals experiencing period poverty do not have to make homemade tampons and pads out of non-sanitary household items.
Period poverty may not seem like an issue that could possibly affect many people around the globe. However, when considering the data surrounding the situation, 2.3 billion people globally do not have access to clean water and sanitary products. When one throws the price of a single pack of tampons into the equation for countless families struggling to put food on the table, the question becomes whether or not the family in question will be able to eat. Unfortunately, the answer to this question is all too obvious.
Fortunately, New Zealand is not the only country that has put forth legislation to provide free sanitary products. Both England and Scotland have recently written legislation providing free sanitary products through schools. The New Zealand government and the U.K. and Scottish governments have made huge strides in the right direction to provide proper sanitary products to families, taking a direct swing at childhood poverty and the afflictions that come with living in that economic bracket.