End Period Poverty
Period poverty is real. Period.
And it’s happening in New Zealand.
Women and girls are resorting to stuffing rags, toilet paper, nappies and socks in their underwear, because they and their families can’t afford menstrual products. Or even if they do have some sanitary products, they use tampons and pads longer than is hygienic. And when these dangerous and uncomfortable options don’t work, they are forced to stay home from work and school out of shame and discomfort, losing days of earnings and education.
A recent survey of 5000 women and girls in New Zealand by KidsCan found that:
1. 53 % had found it difficult to afford sanitary items at some point
2. 23% had missed school or work due to lack of sanitary care
3. 29% of under 17 year olds had missed school or work due to lack of sanitary care
4. 30% said they had had to prioritise buying other items like food, over sanitary items
Periods are starting earlier. The University of Otago revealed that 1 in 16 girls now start their period while at primary school - so primary school children are facing shame, stress and impacted education.
Periods are expensive - Kiwi women spend almost $16,000 in their lifetime on period care products. Period Poverty is a brutal reality in New Zealand, right now.
It's not good enough.
Poverty is enough to deal with, without worrying about how you’re going to afford menstrual products. Enough is enough.
At AWWA we are committed to changing this scenario. We are part of a movement to end period poverty and to ensure that all girls and women have access to menstrual products.
Let’s end period poverty together.
Join the revolution
Your support will help us donate beautiful, reusable, period-proof AWWA underwear to wahine in need in Aotearoa New Zealand. It's easy to make a difference.
Buy a pair
Donate AWWA to women & girls in need
Join the period poverty conversation
A global perspective on Period Poverty
Worldwide, Period Poverty affects countless women and girls - both in developing countries and wealthy nations. As well as emotional and health risks, period poverty is a barrier to education and financial security, and is becoming recognised as a major factor in perpetuating global gender inequality.
UN estimates suggest that one in 10 African schoolgirls skip school during menstruation or drops out entirely due to a lack of clean and private sanitation facilities. India's Ministry of Health reports that only 12% of menstruators have access to sanitary products, leaving the rest to use unsafe materials.
In wealthy countries like England, New Zealand and Scotland, we also see figures showing that a quarter of women and girls report that they have had to miss school or work due to being unable to access period products. This is first-world period poverty.
As well as financial strain, period poverty impacts women and girls emotionally, taking a toll in stress, shame and self confidence. Another dangerous effect of period poverty is the unhygienic measures women go to 'to get through' their period - using socks, re-using pads, leaving tampons in too long or simply having to stay home in stained clothing. The fact that even in 'developed' countries, hundreds of thousands of women and girls are facing this reality is shocking in the deepest sense.
Legislation for change is combating Period Poverty
Scotland, British Columbia, Wales and England provide free period care in schools to fight period poverty, BC ditches 'tampon tax'
In August 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide free sanitary products in schools, colleges and universities, with a revolutionary £5.2M programme. The government also launched a £500,000 scheme to help women from low income households to access free sanitary products in their communities.
In April 2019, the UK Government announced the provision of free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from September 2019 as part of a cross-government push on eliminating period poverty. It comes after pressure from doctors led to the NHS agreed to make tampons and sanitary towels available to patients.
Wales has announced free sanitary products in both primary and secondary schools.
British Columbia has also ordered public schools to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of this year. The BC government had also ditched tax on sanitary products in 2015.
Now it's our turn New Zealand!
What Kiwi women are saying about Period Poverty
"Desperate measures like using rags, socks, or rolled up toilet paper, or reusing pads after drying them out, sound unfathomable – but it happens, often. Schools have reported young girls staying home from school for the week they have their period, because their families can’t afford to provide sanitary products. Needing to take such action surely is a health issue, if not a social one, particularly for young women in more deprived areas throughout New Zealand." – Suzy Mitchell, Community Programmes Manager at St John New Zealand
"A lack of access to sanitary items is a serious and hidden equity issue which needs to be addressed to support these young girls, particularly those of primary school age. It’s really a matter of child rights that no girl, of any age, should miss school because her family could not afford menstrual products.” - Dr Sarah Donovan, Otago University’s Department of Public Health
"Not being able to pay for sanitary items, and having to take time off crucial education and work leads to an even larger equality gap, and mental health issues. This is 100% an equality issue that needs more support.Period poverty may seem like a new challenge facing society but ask your mum or nana and they'll have a story too. But now we women are breaking down the patriarchal taboos, we are able to talk about things like period poverty and hopefully, collectively put an end to it." - Michele, in Villainesse
"I think the Government needs to look at the issue and think about how we can respond and work with communities and families. There are a number of ways this could be approached, including looking at GST on products and fully funding products." - Willow-Jean Prime
“As Kiwis we pride ourselves on leading the way in gender equality. But this is a huge, hidden barrier to that. For girls in low income families, education is the best way out of hardship. But they’re being denied that chance because they can’t afford basic necessities like sanitary items.” - Julie Chapman, CEO KidsCan
We could look at subsidising sanitary products... or we could look at a living wage so that people actually can afford sanitary products, and don't have to make those difficult choices about how they spend their income." - Dr Sue Bagshaw
“[Sanitary items are] too expensive and often babies nappies and formula came first. Have used a disposable nappy more than once at night.” - KidsCan respondent
“We had to use a pad for an entire day to make them last and not go out for fear of leakage.” - KidsCan respondent
“Single mama. Bills to pay food to buy. Can only afford to buy when they are on special.” - KidsCan respondent
“I have to sacrifice a day or two of food to be able to afford what many call ‘a female luxury.’” - KidsCan respondent
“It’s a luxury item for us, and our kids come first... I’ll just fold a length of loo paper.” - KidsCan respondent
“When my daughter got her period I made sure she got pads and I had no money left when it was my turn.” - KidsCan respondent
“Period poverty belongs in the past. It’s 2019 - we’ve got this." - Kylie + Michele xx
Nga mihi and thank you!
We so appreciate the support of these incredible Corporate sponsors who are dedicated to helping eradicate period poverty in New Zealand, and have bought Corporate Packs of AWWA to donate to women and girls in need.