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Free period product scheme gains extension

The recent announcement by the Ministry of Education [MoE] that it will extend funding for free period supplies in schools by $2.9 million until the end of the next financial year has been welcomed by the many Wairarapa schools that participate in the scheme.

The opt-in scheme provides funding for period products to all state and state-integrated primary, intermediate, kura, and secondary schools.

Close to two million product packs have been ordered nationwide since the start of the initiative in 2021 and MoE has stated that 2165 education providers and 200,000 students benefit from it.

The 35 Wairarapa schools participating in the scheme have ordered over 20,000 product packs.

Wairarapa College school registered nurse Claire Marara told the Times-Age that most students receive period products with open arms.

“It’s a fantastic initiative to help not only our most high-need students but also to help out in times when students get caught out,” she said.

Marara said that thousands of sanitary products and packets have been ordered by the school and used by their students.

“It’s impossible to know the exact level of period poverty within our community, as there is stigma around the topic, and it’s seen as taboo by a lot of people,” she said.

Marara said one of the barriers many students face is the embarrassment of having their period combined not having the financial means to buy the products they need.

“They are very good at hiding their level of need, and we do all we can to make the products accessible to them to remove any shame,” she said.

Solway College principal Janine Tupaea said the benefits of the scheme have included easy access to products, reduction in barriers or worry, and improvement in wellbeing, all of which were a big help for students to learn and thrive.

“As an all-girls school with students from Year 7-13, it has enabled us to provide free-of-charge period products to every student in our school,” she said.

“Students are able to access these whenever needed easily and freely from the benches in the student office foyer or boarding team office.

As a boarding school, she said, there are additional benefits, particularly for weekly and full boarding students who cannot collect products from home.

A spokesperson for Puawānanga-Wairarapa Young
Parents – formerly The Wairarapa Teen Parent Unit – said free and easy product access is important for students.

“In today’s economy, the cost of these items is prohibitive to some and could create huge challenges for young people to continue accessing education and work each month.”

The Youth19 Survey data stated that 12 per cent of students from Year 9 to 13 who menstruate had difficulty accessing products due to financial hardship.

Māori and Pasifika students were most affected, with almost one in 12 missing school once a month or more because they don’t have access to the products they needed.

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