Period poverty advocate defends Govt giving free period products to high decile schools

A period poverty advocate is defending the Government's decision to provide free period products to students in high-decile schools.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that period products will be rolled out for free at all New Zealand schools from June in an effort to end period poverty. 

"Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population," Ardern said.

Jacinta Gulasekharam, the co-founder of Dignity NZ, a women's wellness initiative, was speaking to The AM Show on Friday about the decision when sports presenter Mark Richardson questioned why "rich kid" students in high decile schools also get access.

"There is period poverty, but there is also period equity," Gulasekharam countered. "That's where everyone gets caught short of your financial circumstances."

She said that there are populations within all schools that need these free products.

"We have a school down here in Wellington that's decile nine. They have the refugee capture for the Wellington region. You need to understand that, no matter what school you are - that's why I would highly recommend all schools to opt-in by the end of March to this program - your students need this product there when they need it."

Host Ryan Bridge agreed, saying there are "rich kids in poor schools and poor kids in rich schools.

The free period products in New Zealand follow in the footsteps of some Canadian, US and Australian states where free period products are provided in schools. 

The Ministry of Education said they will work with suppliers to manage a phased rollout of the scheme, with period products available towards the end of term 2 for schools that opt-in by March this year.

Gulasekharam said the initiative will help to eliminate period poverty and one really important aspect was that there is a variety of products available.

"What's really important is choice. That was noted by Minister [for Women Jan] Tinetti as well. Everyone's bodies are different and everyone's religious beliefs are different. Having a range e.g. having biodegradable, organic pads and tampons … menstrual cups, or period underwear. It's about having a choice because everybody is different."