Auckland students speak out about period poverty among Pacific girls

A significant number of New Zealand teenagers are missing school and work because they can’t afford sanitary items. And new research has shown that the situation is worse for Māori and Pasifika youth.

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Josephine Falefa and Saiaisi Pita spoke to Tagata Pasifika about the impact period poverty has on students’ education. Source: Tagata Pasifika

“Attendance is really important, but sometimes when it comes to having your period at school, it’s just like a learning barrier,” Auckland Girls’ Grammar student Josephine Falefa told Tagata Pasifika.

“Like, sometimes you even think to yourself, ‘Oh, I need to go home,’ or, ‘I need to buy a pad.’”

Some students even use alternative means.

“I’ve heard of, like, girls using nappies, like toddler nappies, rags and stuff like that, cloths, like re-washing them,” says Auckland Girls’ Grammar student Saiaisi Pita.

Period poverty is a common issue among students. A health and wellbeing survey called Youth2000 showed that 14 per cent of Pacific students missed out on school because they didn’t have menstrual items.

An investigator on the survey, Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath, says Pasifika communities also deal with a number of cultural difficulties around period poverty.

“We found that there was a lot of stigma around that, and of course those conversations about menstruating are not easily had in Pacific families,” says Dr Tiatia-Seath.

The Government announced plans to make sanitary items free in schools, though for most the programme won’t come into effect until next year.

Because of the increase in demand, KidsCan is expected to deliver 120,000 sanitary packs to 400 schools by the end of the year, compared to 30,000 packs last year.

Watch the full story above.