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Period Equity In Aotearoa: Commendations On A Drop In The Ocean

We commend the Coalition Government for its commitment to funding the continuation of the period products in schools programme - Ikura | Manaakitia te whare tangata - for another year.

We urge all stakeholders to join us in congratulating the Coalition Government, particularly at a time when public service spending is being cut, as it reflects the ongoing and critical issue of period inequity in Aotearoa.

Alongside others in the menstrual health ecosystem, we are pleased to see the Coalition Government listening to the arguments put forward in favor of continuing the programme and are delighted that collective advocacy is making a bloody impact.

While this programme is undeniably beneficial for students who are girls, non-binary, and trans and get periods at school, it is essential to recognise that it represents only a fraction of the mahi needed to eliminate period poverty and achieve true period equity in Aotearoa.

Systemic menstrual stigma and taboos prevent individuals from learning about menstrual health and accessing the support they need, when they need it.

The Coalition Government has committed $2.9 million for period products in state, state-integrated, and kura schools for the next year.

The Period Place estimates that each month 70,000 individuals experience the most severe period inequity in Aotearoa.

Addressing this requires $4.2 million worth of period products to meet basic menstrual health needs over the same timeframe. This does not take into account individuals experiencing their menstrual cycle outside of the ‘normal’ range, nor does it cover any further associated costs for a menstrual cycle (such as overnight pads, pain relief, purchasing of underwear or clothes to replace stained ones, etc.).

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Additionally, the lack of access extends to education about menstrual health. While there is an extensive range of age-appropriate menstrual health information available (across a lifetime), people are not always properly informed about their bodies. Understanding what is normal and what isn’t for menstrual cycles is crucial, as is knowing the basic biology behind menstruation.

Another cycle occurs where girls, women, non-binary, and trans menstruators are not fully informed about or understand what their bodies are doing.

While commendable, the school programme is one step forward in the journey to eliminating period poverty and period inequity in Aotearoa.

Achieving this requires a shared commitment from all sectors of society alongside government, including businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, community groups, and individuals. Progress can be accelerated through:

Removing the stigma around non-binary and trans individuals who also have menstrual cycles. All communication from the Coalition Government has referred to ‘girls’ and ‘women’ only. At The Period Place, we centre the lived experience of most people who get periods while also being inclusive by saying ‘girls, women, non-binary, and trans people who have menstrual cycles’.

Removing period stigma by normalising conversations about periods and access to period products at schools, workplaces, homes, friendship groups, and within whānau across generations.

Ensuring age-appropriate menstrual health education is provided to everybody (whether they get a period or not!) as people enter different ages and stages across lifetimes.

Ensuring every bathroom outside the home has access to period products, just like it has access to toilet paper, soap, and handwashing facilities for other personal health management.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss full menstrual health equity for society with Government ministers, business and community leaders, and to hear from those who support our approach.

About the author

Danika Revell is CEO and co-founder of The Period Place, the largest period equity charity in Aotearoa New Zealand.

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