Jacinda Ardern says period products will be free in all New Zealand schools from June 2021

Period products will be rolled out for free at all New Zealand schools from June in an effort to end period poverty. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement on Thursday at Fairfield College in Hamilton, which took part in a free period product pilot programme. The programme has been running since term three last year in 15 schools. 

"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.

Around 3200 young people were provided with period products during the pilot, and feedback found that providing choice was important, both in types of products and the way they are accessed.

With average periods lasting about five days, it can cost up to NZ$15.30 a month for tampons and pads, and some women struggle to afford the cost.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said students also said they wanted information about periods, period products, and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance.

"The positive response from schools and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura," Ardern said. 

Tinetti said issues with periods at school included embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, being 'caught out' without product, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.

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

Those schools that do not initially choose to take up the initiative will continue to be able to opt-in to the initiative at a later date.

"Providing free period products at school is one way the Government can directly address poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children's wellbeing," Ardern said. 

"We want to see improved engagement, learning and behaviour, fewer young people missing school because of their period, and reduced financial hardship amongst families of participating students."

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

Scotland was first in the world to make period products free for all - not just in schools.  

The free period products follows the Government's free school lunches programme, which by the end of 2021 will cover 200,000 kids.