A study by Dr. Donovan found that students from New Zealand’s Maori and Pacific Island immigrant communities, who were statistically more likely to be affected by poverty, were also more likely to be unaffordable for period products. The study showed that fifteen percent of Maori students and 14 percent of Pacific students had missed school because they did not have menstrual materials.
Miranda Hitchings, co-founder of Dignity NZ, a for-profit organization that provides free health supplies to schools, youth and community organizations, said health products can cost up to NZ $ 15,000, or $ 10,800, over a person’s life.
“This is a big cost that could be part of a student loan, or a home deposit,” she said. “But because of the cyclical nature of gender poverty, it is something else that puts women, or people with periods, in the back.”
Hitchings said that before local news reports in 2016 highlighted the extent of poverty in New Zealand, there was relatively little public awareness of the problem.
“We went and talked to the schools and found that it was not only real, it was incredibly popular,” she said. “We also found that individually locals, such as nurses and teachers in schools, were buying products for their students out of their own pocket.”
She said there has been a sharp increase in poverty in the period since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
A campaign for free period products gained momentum in late 2019, when Mrs. Hitchings, her co-founder, Jacinta Gulasikharram, and other activists submitted a petition to sign 3000 to Parliament in the country to demand free period products for all students.