New Zealand, a Pacific island country known for its beautiful waters and unique wildlife, is more than just a tropical paradise. By a recent estimate, New Zealand has the 48th highest GDP per capita in the world. Plus, the average New Zealander leaves school when they are between 18 and 19 years old, whereas in many other countries children leave school before they reach the age of 12. New Zealand also puts a relatively high proportion (9%) of the overall government budget toward healthcare.

Though New Zealand is by no means an impoverished country, thousands of women still suffer from a lack of access to sanitary products. An estimated 95,000 young girls in New Zealand don’t go to school during their period because they don’t have access to the necessary sanitary products. However, the government is currently working to move closer toward New Zealand’s solution to period poverty.

New Zealand’s Sanitary Product Problem

A lack of access to safe sanitary products during menstruation is defined as period poverty. Studies have shown that across the globe, one in four women struggle to purchase the products necessary to deal with their menstruation. When women don’t have access to tampons and pads, it can lead to devastating situations. Some women are unable to work or leave the house, or are even shamed for what their bodies are going through. This makes education, employment and other aspects of life very difficult for women — for about a week every month.

In New Zealand, close to 12% of school-age girls between the ages of 12 and 18 have difficulty or are unable to purchase sanitary products. More than that, close to 10% of girls reported that they had skipped school because they didn’t have access to tampons or pads.

The Plan

The number of school-age girls who were missing out on educational opportunities due to their menstrual cycle led New Zealand’s prime minister to take steps towards eradicating period poverty. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that period products were not a luxury but in fact a necessity for female students. In light of this, New Zealand’s government is using NZ$2.6 million to help relieve period poverty. Eventually, New Zealand hopes to eradicate period poverty, but funds will first go toward making sanitary products free for girls in 15 New Zealand schools.

New Zealand’s Future

The hope for this government initiative is that it will lead to having free sanitary products in all state schools by 2021. While this would be a huge step toward New Zealand’s solution to period poverty, there is still a long way to go. Dignity, a local organization that focuses on women’s rights and access to sanitary products, has voiced its appreciation and support for the government’s efforts to support women’s access to menstrual products.

However, Dignity also pointed out that there is still work to be done. Women throughout the country need access to sanitary products, not just girls in primary and secondary schools. Moreover, Arden’s period poverty initiative is just one part of a plan that aims to halve childhood poverty in the next 10 years. While it may not address every aspect of period poverty or childhood poverty, New Zealand’s plan is moving the country one step closer toward eliminating period poverty.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Human Rights
Some individuals assume that issues, such as poverty and human rights violations, can be solved separately from one another. However, what many fail to realize is that poverty and the denial of human rights are problems that are interdependent issues. In other words, where there is poverty, there are human rights violations and vice-versa.

Poverty is more than just individuals lacking in quality employment and material goods; it also incorporates social and physical goods. Social and physical goods are characterized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a right to cultural identity, right to equality, freedom to live with respect and dignity, freedom from violence and degrading treatment, freedom of political opinion, education, personal security and many other basic human rights.

According to Amnesty USA, “Gross economic and social inequality is an enduring reality in countries of all political ideologies, and all levels of development. In the midst of plenty, many are still unable to access even minimum levels of food, water, education, healthcare and housing. This is not only the result of a lack of resources, but also unwillingness, negligence and discrimination by governments and others. Many groups are specifically targeted because of who they are; those on the margins of society are often overlooked altogether.”

It is estimated that one-third of all human deaths occur because of poverty associated reasons. These poverty-related reasons are considered easily preventable such as access to clean water, nutrition and access to quality health care because they fall under basic human rights.

This relationship is further validated by statistics. The Human Rights Watch reports that those who live in dire poverty within low income or lower-middle income countries, also live in homes where the head of household is part of an ethnic minority group.

In recent years, the Office of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in collaboration with other U.N. partners, has recognized this relationship between poverty and human rights violations. A few of the approaches that these organizations are utilizing are empowering the poor, providing international assistance and cooperation and strengthening human rights protection systems.

Currently, these organizations are collaborating with multiple governments in order to employ poverty reduction strategies as a way to ensure that vulnerable groups have access to their basic human rights.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr


Habitat for Humanity publishes a list of 25 things everyone should know about poverty in America and around the world. Below are 10 items from their list.

1. There are different definitions of poverty.
To define poverty, it is necessary to define what constitutes basic needs. Basic needs may be defined as narrowly as those things necessary for survival, or as broadly as the prevailing standard of living in the community. Thus, poverty in one area or part of the world may have quite a different meaning than in another area or part of the world. In the United States, poverty thresholds are determined by taking the cost of a minimum adequate diet for families of different sizes and multiplying that cost by three to allow for other expenses.

2. There is more to being poor than not having money.
“Poverty is not just about money: lack of access to essential resources goes beyond financial hardship to affect people’s health, education, security and opportunities for political participation. …While economic growth is essential to lifting people out of poverty, this alone is not enough.”—United Nations Development Programme Annual Report 2008

3. People still die from being poor.
More than 26,000 children under age 5 die each day, mostly from preventable causes. More than one-third of all child deaths occur within the first 28 days of life.—UNICEF, “State of the World’s Children,” 2008

4. Poverty directly affects many, many people every single day.
Some 1.2 billion people around the world live on less than a dollar a day, while almost 850 million people—almost three times the entire population of the United States—go hungry every night.—United Nations Development Programme Annual Report 2008

5. Women often face more challenges than men in overcoming poverty.
Women who become single heads of households, particularly in Africa, are significantly more vulnerable,because in many countries in the region they can access land only through husbands or fathers. Where women’s land ownership is relationship-based, they risk losing access to land after widowhood, divorce, desertion or male migration, which can lead to destitution.—United Nations’ Centre for Human Settlements, “State of the World’s Cities 2008/2009”

6. Yet women are an important part of the solution.
“Women have proven to be the best poverty fighters. Experience and studies have shown that they use the profits from their businesses to send their children to school, improve their families’ living conditions and nutrition, and expand their businesses.”—The Grameen Foundation

7. Poor people pay back loans.
The repayment rate for microfinance loans, a development strategy in which very poor people are loaned small amounts of money to incrementally improve their lives, is between 95 and 98 percent. In fact, it is higher than the repayment rate of student loans and credit card debts in the United States.—The Grameen Foundation

8. Defeating poverty creates dignity.
Marrie Gessesse, a mother of eight in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, used microfinance loans to buy goats and cultivate fruits and vegetables for income. Eventually, she was able to send her children to school. “No one used to consider me before,” she says. “When they saw that I was becoming autonomous, people started to respect me. Now they have elected me member of the administrative council and the women’s association.”—International Fund for Agricultural Development

9. Poverty is a moral issue.
Almost 9 million children are internally displaced because of armed conflict. Roughly 1.8 million children are trapped in the commercial sex trade, and the annual revenue generated from human trafficking is $9.5 billion.—UNICEF, 2007

10. Poverty is not inevitable.
In 1960, roughly 20 million newborns did not live to see their fifth birthday; by 2006, the most recent year for which firm estimates are available, the annual number of child deaths globally fell below 10 million, to 9.7 million, for the first time since records began.—UNICEF, “State of the World’s Children,” 2008.

– Délice Williams

Source: Habitat
Photo: Bargate