Access to free period products Frequently Asked Questions

The access to period product initiative aims to provide free period products to children and young people in all schools and kura across New Zealand from 2021. The frequently asked questions below provide more information on this initiative.

Why will the initiative be open to all schools? Why not targeted to only those most in need?

Providing products on a universal basis has several advantages. It minimises any stigma associated with being unable to afford essential products, with being embarrassed to approach an adult, with just being unprepared, or simply for having a period at all. All students who need products benefit, whatever the reason, and there is no need to single out those who need it more than others.

Targeting programmes on the basis of need also requires a process to confirm eligibility. This can add to cost and complexity whilst discouraging uptake, even among those who are eligible, meaning some children needing products miss out.

Providing products to all students also reinforces the message that periods are a normal part of life, and that everyone should have access to essential products so they can take part in their normal everyday activities.

Does the initiative include primary, intermediate and secondary schools?

Yes, the initiative will be available to all state and state-integrated schools and kura. Research shows the average age young people start menstruating is decreasing, and access to period products in primary and intermediate, as well as secondary, is needed.

How many children and young people will be able to access free period products under this initiative?

Uptake will depend on how many schools and kura opt in and how many students access the offer. The first trial phase has provided products to up to 3,200 students in 15 Waikato schools. Research from the University of Otago indicates that almost 95,000 9 to 18-year olds from the country’s lowest income households may be unable to afford period products. Initial research indicates up to 80 percent of schools and kura are likely to opt in.

How will this initiative support tamariki and rangatahi Māori and Pacific children and young people and their families and whānau?

The Ministry will consult with Māori and Pacific children and young people, whānau and families, to understand their perspectives and how best the programme can meet their needs so that feedback can inform ongoing delivery. This will include talking about cultural perceptions and approaches to menstruation, types of period products, and different ways to access products.

Who did you consult with about the programme?

A small number of schools and kura were consulted during the development of the initiative. The Ministry also drew on research findings and consultation with others, including with the Government of Victoria. This confirmed that there is a need for period products amongst students.

The first trial phase involved working closely with selected schools and kura, young people, suppliers, charitable organisations, advocacy groups and other stakeholders to understand what was in place, and develop and test the best way of providing products in schools. This included independently engaging with young people to understand the barriers to accessing products and the most effective mechanisms to support them to access products.

Is this initiative based on models used overseas?

The approach we take needs to work well within the New Zealand school system, which is why we are not directly implementing an approach designed overseas. Our school populations are diverse, and we want to ensure that all children and young people with periods have access to the products they need.

Which schools were the first to receive period products during Term 3, 2020?

The access to period products initiative began with a trial in fifteen Waikato schools and kura during Term 3 2020. We wanted to work with a small group of schools and young people to start with, so we are sure that the products we provide, and the way they are provided, meet their needs.

What was the feedback from the trial?

The feedback from the trial was overwhelmingly positive with students emphasising they felt heard and cared for. Students also valued having choice, both in product and how it was made available to them. Schools have also feedback on the shift in culture at school as the provision of product is beginning to reduce the stigma around periods for their students.

Will this require staffing in schools?

The initiative may require some initial input from schools as the supplier sets up. Once this is complete the supplier will facilitate the distribution of products with minimum burden on schools.

Young people often are embarrassed to talk to adults so we will work with suppliers and schools on the best way to delivery period products that minimises interactions with staff.

Is the initiative compulsory?

Taking part in the initiative will be a school or kura decision and will not be compulsory. We are providing period products to schools and kura on an opt-in basis so that schools can assess whether to offer period products to students and what is the best way to do this for their community. Initial feedback indicates that access to period products is already a concern for a number of schools, and we expect uptake to reflect this.

Why is the initiative offered on an opt-in basis?

Offering the initiative on an opt-in basis recognises that needs will vary across schools, kura and communities, and that schools and kura are best placed to assess local interest and demand. It provides access and choice for any schools that identifies a need, including schools where a need may not be so obvious. For example, we know of a number of single sex boys’ schools which partner with other local schools for particular classes or across year groups and include students of more than one gender.

What if schools and kura are already providing period products for their students?

Schools and kura can choose to opt into the initiative. We know some have already established ways to provide period products to students, including through charitable providers and or by using their own resources.

What types of products will be provided? Will sustainable products be available?

Initially, funding will provide pads and tampons. These are easy to use and suit a broad range of age, developmental and cultural needs, especially in a schooling context. As the initiative develops, we will explore how we can support the use of sustainable products, such as reusable menstrual cups and period underwear alongside educating students around these products. Whilst reusable products can provide a longer-term more environmentally friendly option, they are not always suitable for the age range and cultural diversity of young people in schools. Some young people can find it challenging to use these at school and are uncomfortable carrying used products in their schoolbags.

How will you source period products for schools?

We will be running an open tender process on the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) from late March 2021. This is designed to promote open and fair competition in the New Zealand Government market. 

Suppliers interested in getting involved can register for this service at gets.govt.nz/ to be notified when the tender is posted.

The tender requirements will be informed by initial engagement with potential suppliers through the procurement process and by learnings from the trial phase. We will work with suppliers to design a solution that best meets young people’s needs, delivers products as quickly and simply as possible, and offers value for money. We are looking to contract supplier(s) for a minimum of two years.

What about sanitary bins?

The implementation process will establish the roles and responsibilities for the day-to-day management of the initiative including appropriate sanitary disposal. This is planned to start later this year.

Are there particular health and safety considerations?

It is important that children and young people menstruating have access to appropriate and safe period products. Research indicates that people who do not have the products they need are often forced to use unsafe or unreliable alternatives, such as newspaper or rags, which increase the risk of infection. Hygienic disposal of pads and tampons through the use of sanitary bins is already managed by schools.

How much will this cost?

We have done some preliminary costings, however these are commercial-in-confidence at this stage – we first need to tender for the supply, delivery, and distribution of the products. Final costings will be determined by factors such as the cost of supply and distribution, the number of schools opting in, the percentage of students who take-up the offer, and the mode of in-school access.

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