Reducing period poverty where you work

Reducing period poverty where you work

MAKING BASIC NEEDS AT WORK GENDER EQUAL - Written by - Anika Speedy, Dignity and Zoe Brownlie, GenderTick

We’re starting this article with an apology, as it starts with bad news. Sorry. But then it goes on to be much more positive and will make you feel good and inspired and that there’s hope, so bear with us. 

A third of the New Zealand population are now receiving support from the government, and the number of people living in poverty is increasing every day. Although many of us are excited about being allowed out for a drink and seeing more of our friends and family, the stress of not being able to afford necessities is affecting more and more of us.

As you have probably seen in the news over the last couple of years, period poverty affects thousands of New Zealanders every year. Young people are missing school and people are taking time off work because they can’t afford period products.

In some schools, 14% of those who get periods miss at least one day per month because of this (and for Māori and Pasifika students it is much higher). 

On average, the total lifetime cost is $15,000 per person for period products, so as more and more of us have less and less money, more and more of us are going to be missing school and work.

If you’re not having to worry about every cent you’re spending, then there are two things you can do to support those who are, and create a more equal society.

 Advocate for period products for everyone at your workplace

Everyone deserves basic necessities where they work. You’d expect everyone to get this in New Zealand, a country which is considered “developed”. And yet, this is not the case. Workplaces provide everything most men need in the toilets, which includes toilet paper and soap. They are also provided with urinals, which are a preference rather than a necessity. Many workplaces also provide fancy hand washes and creams, and yet most women have to buy and bring their own period products to work. 

When you think about it, it seems ridiculous that this is the case. So advocate for your workplace to provide basic necessities for everyone. It is not a huge cost, especially if you compare it to fancy soaps and creams, or other things some workplaces offer their employees. And as well as changing your workplace, this will impact our broader society too, so that schools and other organisations provide them too.

Work with Dignity to provide period products at your workplace, so you’re also helping to eliminate period poverty in New Zealand

 Dignity is a women’s wellness initiative co-founded by Miranda Hitchings and Jacinta Gulasekharam, two young women who wanted to end period poverty. Dignity champions period equity through a ‘buy one, give one’ model, and their corporate partners purchase period products to put in their bathrooms, and the equivalent number of boxes are donated to those in need.

Many businesses, like ANZ, Xero, Yellow and Kiwi Wealth, partner with Dignity to provide period products to their employees.  This allows Dignity to support over 120 schools, youth and community organisations to have free access to period products and remove the barriers of period poverty. To date they have donated over 27,000 boxes to those in need.

At Dignity we often hear from organisations “Oh, my staff can afford to pay for their own period products”.

But even if someone can afford period products, it does not negate the fact that they are still going to get caught short at some point with their period – something they have no control over. There is still a lot of shame, stigma and anxiety around this happening while at work. As lockdown levels reduce and people go back to work, they will be facing a lot more personal and financial hardships, so providing period products is a very small price to pay to support your people. 

Yellow, a GenderTick accredited organisation who also provide period products for their employees through Dignity, decided to donate their supply of products to those in need back through Dignity while they’re not in the office. “We’re proud to support Dignity, a social movement that helps young Kiwi women have access to period products.  Every time we purchase products through Dignity, the equivalent is gifted to a school or community centre. The need for these products doesn’t diminish through lockdown and neither will our support, which is why we’re donating our next month’s supply to Dignity” said Tracey Taylor, Chief Experience Officer at Yellow.

So as we create “the new normal” in our organisations, let’s not lose the gains we have made. Make sure that your workplace is providing basic necessities for everyone. And go one step further by getting products through Dignity and helping those in need.

Written by - Anika Speedy, Dignity and Zoe Brownlie, GenderTick


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