Here’s a bit of harrowing news from New Zealand, a place I incorrectly and ignorantly assumed was a covid-free utopia. According to the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, one in 12 students in the island nation were skipping school due to “period poverty”—meaning, they could not afford period products, the BBC reports. “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 on Tuesday.
The solution? Free menstruation products in all New Zealand schools, starting in June. “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,” Arden added.
According to Dignity NZ, a non-profit working to eradicate period poverty in New Zealand, 95,000 nine to 18-year-old students might skip class because they are unable to afford those products. “Period poverty doesn’t just affect students,” Dignity NZ co-founder Miranda Hitchings told The Guardian. “It’s a subset of poverty, and many other groups, like those experiencing homelessness and income loss, deeply feel the implications from a lack of access to products.”
The United States doesn’t fare better—according to research conducted by Regis College, one in five American girls have left school early or skipped entirely because they did not have access to period products. Though 25 million U.S. women live in poverty, those products are not covered by food stamps—and in 30 states, they are taxed, deemed “nonessential” goods.
If it were up to me, every nation would pull a Scotland and make period products free and accessible for all in all public facilities! At least New Zealand is taking a step in the right direction.