More action needed to combat young people’s experiences of period poverty

Thursday, February 20, 2020

KidsCan is calling for more action to help students dealing with the shame of period poverty. The Youth 19 survey, released today, found over 21% of students in decile one schools had missed school due to a lack of menstrual products, with 14% missing more than a day a month.

“This is an important piece of research, and one we need to act on,” KidsCan’s CEO and founder Julie Chapman said. “In New Zealand today, girls should not be missing school because they don’t have sanitary products. It affects their education, reduces their career prospects, and can trap them in a cycle of poverty. We’re doing all we can to change that.”

KidsCan has been providing sanitary items in the decile 1-4 schools it supports since 2013, when teachers reported some students were missing up to a week of school a month. Demand has risen steadily.  Last year KidsCan supplied more than 30,000 boxes of pads, tampons and liners. This year that is projected to rise four-fold to 120,000 boxes after a push to educate students on the support available.

The charity has been working alongside the University of Otago and the University of Auckland to look at the extent of period poverty in New Zealand and test the best ways to reach students in hardship. 4,000 students across 100 KidsCan partnership schools have trialled sample kits with products and educational material, discrete carry bags, and student ordering cards available in English and Te Reo Maori. The new measures resulted in a 300% increase in product demand, with positive feedback from students and teachers’ alike.

Chapman said she would love to see New Zealand follow England, Scotland and Wales, where Governments fund sanitary products for school students.

“We would love to work with our Government to deliver such a scheme,” she says. “KidsCan supports 787 low decile schools throughout New Zealand, and we use our buying power to negotiate amazing discounts on products through corporate partners like Johnson & Johnson. Schools order what they need from us, and we distribute sanitary items alongside food, shoes, raincoats and other health essentials. We are well placed to deliver an expanded programme.”

A 2018 KidsCan survey revealed 29% of 15-17 year old respondents said they had missed school due to a lack of access to sanitary items. When unable to afford sanitary items, they reported using toilet paper, rags, old cloths, and nappies.