Countdown is showing business can take the lead on social issues

Miranda Hitchings and Jacinta Gulasekharam1

8:58, Jul 24 2018

OPINION: We all know the cost of periods can be ridiculous.

For example, buying one box of 16 tampons at $4 and one box of 12 pads at $5.50 from Countdown every month for 40 years ends up costing $4,560.

This ends up becoming unaffordable for any family that experiences material deprivation.

The cost of periods is a cost burdened by women who are already subjected to the gender pay gap, while condoms are free in abundance and to anyone who wants to have them.

It is welcome to see businesses taking a lead in affordability of these items.

The latest move by Countdown to slash the price of their budget sanitary items by 48 per cent is incredible, and will no doubt increase the ability of New Zealand families to afford these items.

From here we need a serious discussion about not just how to make sanitary items more affordable, but how we can make them free.

Scotland has taken the lead in creating a pilot for free sanitary items for 1,000 women in Aberdeen, with a member's bill to make them free nation-wide on the cards.

Conventional sanitary items also contribute to our growing waste problem, that needs to be addressed with alternatives such as organic biodegradable items and menstrual cups.

We have to keep in mind the ability of women to have access to their preferred item of choice; as one size does not fit all.

Sanitary products not only have to be affordable, but also accessible.

This means at places where women are, and not just the supermarket, such as the workplace, schools, university and women's refuges.

Social issues like period poverty need multiple solutions to make a difference.

There are already charities and other donation models that help to contribute to access for these items, however, they usually rely on government grants and donations to the community that aren't regular.

In the space of 18 months, we have given away 1500 boxes of sanitary items to 33 schools each term.

We are supporting 6000 girls across New Zealand with our Buy One Give One initiative in partnership with corporates such as ANZ and Cigna.

We choose to only supply organic certified sanitary items from Organic Initiative as their products break down naturally in 3-5 years as opposed to 500 years for standard products.

Other incredible organisations such as Wā Collective and My Cup are doing their part to make these items accessible for women in New Zealand.

Business can take a lead in social issues, with impact-driven models.

As proven by Countdown and these other initiatives, businesses don't have to wait for grants or donations to start making impact.

That's why all of us in this space are working hard to solve the issue of period poverty that women face in New Zealand.

The challenge is to see if New Zealand can become the first country in the world where sanitary items are free for all women and girls to access - here's hoping.

Miranda Hitchings and Jacinta Gulasekharam are the founders of Dignity, a subscription service which donates sanitary items to schools.

Miranda Hitchings