Period poverty 'a human rights issue' says Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, as some girls miss out on school

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is calling for the impact of period poverty to be treated as a Human Rights issue, and for a Government response to the issue. 

There have been reports of girls missing school due to not being able to afford sanitary items.

Ms Ghahraman said period poverty was "something we can't ignore from both a human rights perspective and as a bottom line". 

It has previously been reported by TVNZ that some families had kept girls home from school as they couldn't afford sanitary products, while others used newspaper or cardboard instead.

"We can see it, it ends up creating discrimination essentially for young women in accessing their education, which is a human right. I think the Government have to come to the table."

She said "any woman" would be aware of the limitations of menstruating with no sanitary products available. 

Human Rights Commission's Dr Jackie Blue told 1 NEWS women should not be facing preventable barriers and would be concerned "if young women are missing school because of a lack of access to sanitary products". 

"It's just not on."

"We need to make sure that women, particularly socially disadvantaged ones, have every opportunity to get a good education and to participate fully in society."

KidsCan chief executive Julie Chapman said in July, feedback from school nurses and principals revealed the lack of access to female sanitary products due to cost is a major problem, with some girls taking the contraceptive pill to stop their bleeding

Julie Chapman from the youth charity said many Kiwi students are “micromanaging” their periods, without access to sanitary products. Source: 1 NEWS

"Now that to me is shocking. We've been aware of this issue, we've started putting sanitary items into schools about five years ago but we've seen it progressively get worse," she said. 

Ms Ghaharman said it would be "cheaper and far more effective in the long-run" for Government to try and provide sanitary items to those who cannot afford it in the healthcare system, rather than leaving "it up to individuals to suffer alone". 

Where to from here?

In April, 2017, Pharmac rejected an application from a private citizen to reduce the cost of tampons and sanitary pads.

"Our view is that this application does not fall within Pharmac's scope because it does not show a link to therapeutic benefits related to a health need," Pharmac's director of operations Sarah Fitt said in a statement.

However, Dr Sarah Donovan of Otago University was lodging another application to Pharmac on the matter.

Otago Medical School's Dr Lucy Telfar-Barnard said anyone could apply to Pharmac to have a medicine or medical device funded.

She said demonstrating the health need of sanitary products was "particularly challenging" as little research has been carried out in New Zealand. 

"Affording menstrual products is already difficult for women in poverty, but there's an additional challenge for school age girls because they do not control the household spending, and may feel embarrassed to ask their parent(s) to buy them menstrual care products.

"Both because they know their family is struggling to pay bills, and because of the general embarrassment of talking about menstruation."

Ms Ghahraman said New Zealand was in the dark on how period poverty impacted women and gathering data could convince the Government "to actually fund this, because it is costing us money anyway". 


In 2016, then-TVNZ1 Seven Sharp reporter Kristin Hall investigated the issue of girls being kept home from school due to being unable to afford sanitary products. 

One Auckland budgeting service told Ms Hall over a few months he was aware of 10 families who kept their daughters at home. 

"There's a girl who's 16 years of age, at least one week of every four, she stays home because the family cannot afford them," Darryl Evans, from the Mangere Budgeting Service in Auckland said in 2016. 

In March last year, National's Paula Bennett said she was "absolutely appalled that there might be girls whose education is being held up because they are embarrassed or they can't get access to what they really need". 

"I think there is a role to reduce the cost for some girls who are not getting access to quite frankly the education and health benefits that all New Zealanders should get."

In July, supermarket chain Countdown announced it would be dropping the price of some female sanitary products to fight "period poverty" for low income and disadvantaged Kiwi women.

But they’re warning more needs to be done to fight "period poverty". Source: 1 NEWS