Opinion: Periods aren't fun, but we can at least make them affordable

There are girls in New Zealand who aren't going to school because their families can't afford sanitary products.

There are women in New Zealand who have resorted to using newspaper, cardboard, or rags. Whatever they can find.

It might seem hard to believe, but it's true.

For women with money, sanitary products are an essential. It's something you don't even think about. Milk, bread, tampons. No problem.

For women and families on low incomes it's a toss-up between food and bills, or $25 a month on sanitary products.

There are girls here in NZ that charities say are missing school because they can’t afford products they need. Source: Seven Sharp

More if you've got several women and girls in the family, even more than that if they suffer from PCOS, endometriosis or similar health complications.

The problem also affects new mums. Days for Girls makes re-usable pads, designed for use in pooer countries like Ghana, Sudan and Kiribati.

They send hundreds to Middlemore Hospital's maternity ward every year, after the hospital cleaners found that women had been using paper.

In New Zealand, we pay 15 per cent GST on sanitary products. The tampon tax has been raised in the US, Canada, Australia and Malaysia, and yet the Minister for Women Louise Upston couldn't have been more blunt in her lack of concern for the issue.

She says the products here are affordable. For her they probably are.

When we covered this story on Seven Sharp last night, the familiar commentators came out of the woodwork, the sort you see with any story that has to do with poverty.

There were the 'in my day'-ers. You know, the ones who were blessed to even have rags and had to walk 16 miles barefoot in the snow to have their periods.

Taking GST off sanitary products would be a small step - Kristin Hall

There were the 'try harder'-ers, the ones who raised their 17 girls on a single income and still found the money to buy pads and tampons. Good for you, you managed it. Some can't.

A worrying number even claimed that girls were 'simply looking for an excuse not to go to school', which doesn't even merit a response.

A few people suggested menstrual cups, and perhaps that's the way forward, but until they are cheap and readily accessible for everyone, they're not a viable alternative.

Taking GST off sanitary products would be a small step towards ensuring that all Kiwi women and girls can carry on with their lives like it's actually 2016. Or WINZ could work out a deal with a supplier so that they can be subsidised.

Periods are not fun, they are not glamourous, and they aren't easy to talk about. The least we can do is make them affordable.