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Charity calls for free period products in NZ, after Scotland passes landmark legislation

After landmark legislation was passed in Scotland to make sanitary products free for all, a period poverty charity in New Zealand says they’re hoping to see similar legislation here too. 

The Period Place co-founder Danika Revell. Source: Supplied

The Period Place co-founder Danika Revell told 1 NEWS she was “really stoked” for Scotland. It became the first country in the world yesterday to put in law that the products should be free for those who needed it at places like schools and universities, as well as other Government organisations. 

The legislation was passed unanimously at the Scottish Parliament, and Revell said she wanted to see the same cross-party support from all MPs here too. 

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Scotland becomes first country to make period products free

“It needs it from whole parties, not just from a couple of members of each party that really support it,” Revell said.

In June, Budget 2020 put $2.2 million towards the roll-out of an initiative that provided sanitary products to 15 Waikato schools during Term 3 this year. All state and state-integrated schools would be able to opt in from 2021. 

Revell said the programme was “a great start, but it’s not enough” because it was dependent on the person being at school that day. 

“And then at the end of the day, when you go home, you need to use rags or newspapers or nappies. That's the weekends and school holidays too, and that's why it just isn't enough.

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It comes as a new study estimates 20,000 young New Zealanders are at risk of going without these essential products. Source: 1 NEWS

“Period poverty is a layer of poverty, and it's one that can be removed. Once we remove that layer, it opens up access to leave the house and access to education.

“We know kids go to school with rags and nappies, and they don't pay attention in class because they're then distracted.”

Revell wanted the Government to take one step further by passing legislation to make sanitary products widely accessible. 

Research from The Period Place estimated about 70,000 to 100,000 people were experiencing “extreme period poverty”. Revell said this could mean a lack of access to period products, or a lack of education about periods. 

“The only way to eliminate it [period poverty] properly is with legislative support. But, we think there’s a place for businesses and individuals as well to help.”

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The PM said she is personally looking into it. Source: 1 NEWS

Aside from being a human rights issue, at the very base of it, period poverty was about sanitation and public health, she said.

“'I’m not saying that there needs to be top-of-the-range period products available in every public bathroom. You don’t have Quilton three-ply in toilets in the park,” she said.

“By providing period products, it’s not taking away anything from anyone else … it is providing a health and sanitation item, just like toilet paper is, so people can leave the house to go to school or work.”

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Dignity’s Jacinta Gulasekharam says legislation, like Scotland’s, would ensure products are widely available.

The New Minister for Women Jan Tinetti told 1 NEWS her "initial focus" in the role was to roll out the initiative of providing free sanitary products to schools who opt in from 2021. 

"There are numerous advocacy groups and NGOs who are working alongside communities and schools to make sure products are available to those that need them."

She added: "I am excited to learn about the solutions proposed by the Scotland Government – I am particularly interested in what kind of impact it makes for all those who menstruate."