Govt urged to tackle period poverty by subsidising sanitary items

Drive 03/10/2018
Photo: iStock.

Girls are getting their period at a younger age, according to new research, prompting fears that young girls are the subject of “period poverty”.

The Ministry of Health's 2014/15 NZ Health Survey revealed that one in 16 Kiwi girls get their period while at primary school.

KidsCan says the demand for sanitary products in primary schools is increasing, with many parents with low incomes struggling to afford the items for their children.

“Certainly what we have seen over the last four years is a significant increase in the schools we support for these [sanitary] products,” Julie Chapman, chief executive of KidsCan.

In particularly, more than 30 percent of KidCan’s sanitary products go to primary and intermediate schools. This year alone, 329 schools across the country were supplied with more than 16,000 boxes of pads, tampons and liners.

Ms Chapman wrote an emotional piece for Stuff where she proposed that girls as young as eight are struggling with period poverty.

“That's enough for any young girl to cope with. But if your parents are struggling to provide even the basics – like food – it's intensely magnified,” she wrote in the op-ed.

She told RadioLIVE that between skyrocketing rent and petrol – families have to make tough choices with impending expenses.

Indeed, Dr Sarah Donovan from Otago University's public health department has called for more sanitary products to be made available for young girls in school.

New Zealand’s drug-buying agency Pharmac rejected a request to fund women's sanitary items in April last year as it believed the items weren't medicines.

Since then, supermarket chain Countdown has cut the cost of its in-house sanitary items in a bid to tackle period poverty.

Ms Chapman believes they should be available to girls at no cost at school through a Government subsidy, along with lifting vulnerable families out of poverty.

“It is an essential item. We know that girls are not coming to school. They’re missing out on their education because this is a significant problem.”

Listen to the full interview with Julie Chapman above.

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