New Zealand To Give Out Free Menstrual Products To School-Going Girls To Help Tackle Period Poverty. Having A Female PM Really Helps

FI NZ Knows Sanitary Pads Are Essential

If you could pick a country to live in, what country would you pick? I would pick New Zealand. It’s serene, gorgeous, and it’s nowhere near as populated or polluted as India and that is a major pro for me right now. However, the main reason that I want to move to New Zealand is because of their kickass Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden. Do you think she’ll grant me citizenship or is it a long shot?

Anyway, my dream of moving to New Zealand was only propelled forward when I found out that the government has decided to provide all the girls with free menstrual hygiene products. Finally, a nation that recognizes that menstrual hygiene products are as essential as food and clean water. Given that no woman has voluntarily asked for periods, we have been shouting hoarse about how it should be an essential product anyway but obviously, bone-headed men who make the rules don’t care.

The reason that New Zealand is taking these steps, is the same reason that most of the world ought to- to tackle period poverty. You see, millions of girls around the world have to compromise on their education because they can’t afford sanitary products. This leads to them missing school for a week every month, which ultimately hampers their education.

Also Read: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Said A Four-Day Work Week Is Better For Productivity. We Think She’s On To Something

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said that the sanitary supplies each month are not a luxury but a necessity. She also mentioned that way too many girls were skipping school because they weren’t being able to afford these menstrual hygiene products. Finally, a world leader who understands that menstrual health is not optional. We’ve been saying, women really do make for great leaders.

In New Zealand’s deprived areas, girls are forced to use toilet paper, rags, and newspapers to try and handle their periods because they can’t afford sanitary pads or tampons.

By term three of this year, 15 Waikato (district in the upper north island of NZ) schools, who have been identified as most downtrodden will have access to these free menstrual products. By 2021, this initiative will be spread out nation-wide on an opt-in basis.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said, “We know that nearly 95,000 nine-to-18-year-olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products,” Ardern said. “By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school.”

This program will be able to help countless girls spread out across New Zealand to get their education back on track. Now, they will not be forced to take a week off from school every month and that will make all the difference. Seriously, this is a commendable decision to put an end to a very relevant and widespread problem.

The New Zealand Minister of Women Julie Ann Genter said that the cost of sanitary products could be “prohibitive” for some families. This results in monthly absences for children and girls who find it difficult to manage their periods hygienically at school since they can’t afford sanitary products.

She said, “Menstruation is a fact of life for half the population and access to these products is a necessity, not a luxury.”

The Labour Coalition Government of New Zealand aims to lessen child poverty by 50% in a decade. However, PM Jacinda said that this objective of theirs has gotten tougher due to the complications brought by COVID 19. Although these complications might’ve have made it tougher for the government to reach their goal, they feel that it was essential to invest in a programme that would make an “immediate difference” to the lives and education of underprivileged girls around the country.

Also Read: In Kenya, Young Girls Are Dropping Out Of School Because They Don’t Have The Funds To Buy Sanitary Pads. This Is Just Sad.

Research shows that one out 12 girls in NZ skip school every month because they can’t afford sanitary products. This programme will put an end to period poverty amongst school-going children. However, this demographic is only one part of a larger issue.

When I read about this, I wondered what the rate of period poverty is like in India. So, I dug a little bit and came across the staggering statistics. According to the Indian Ministry of Health, only 12% of menstruating women have access to sanitary period products. The rest 88% are largely depended on unhygienic materials such as rags, cloth, hay, sand and ash to manage their periods. As a result of this, nearly 40% of the menstruating girls have to resort to missing school due to the social stigma and inaccessibility to products.

Menstruation is surrounded with a lot of stigma and superstition in this country, so it stood to reason the statistics couldn’t have been good. But these numbers are beyond horrid. Although looking at the rate at which India is doing away with this stigma, I would say it’s going to take a long time for us to take the step New Zealand has just taken. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic, does it?

Like I mentioned earlier, NZ is my dream country to live in and PM Jacinda Arden is one of the main reasons why. I guess having a female PM helps a lot since all the women’s issues, that otherwise get side-traced, get addressed. They absolutely nailed the first step to ending period poverty and I can’t wait for the day India has the foresight to do the same.

Mitali Shah

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