Helping the Next Generation

Periods aren't just an annoyance for New Zealand female girls, it's also affecting their education. Girls have been missing school and make-shifting items out of telephone books, toilet paper and rags because the cost of menstruation products is just too high. Even when families do prioritise these items the outcome can still detrimental. When you're living on $10 a day, a $6 packet of pads can reduce the ability to purchase healthy and fresh food that is conducive to concentration and learning. 

Periods are an unavoidable cost and women shouldn't be disadvantaged because of this. 

Through Dignity's buy-one give-one model businesses can help aid these students by providing these safe, quality and accessible tampons and pads to schools.

Recently, growing media attention discussing the issue of period poverty in New Zealand indicated the need for further research. The Dignity quarterly school research report provided an opportunity for schools to share their solutions and opinions on period poverty, as well the impact of Dignity on students. The key contacts who participated in this research included nurses, principals and counsellors who are also the frontline staff supporting New Zealand students tackle the implications of period poverty.

Period poverty is a complex problem that manifests itself in a myriad of ways and the impact of Dignity in schools has been multifaceted. Since the beginning, the reduction of absenteeism has been recorded. During Term 1 2019, 72% of schools mentioned that a core outcome of having free sanitary items meant their students were able to stay in school during their period.

Jacinta (Dignity Co-founder at Hutt Valley Teen Parent Unit

Jacinta (Dignity Co-founder at Hutt Valley Teen Parent Unit

Key Findings on Period Poverty

What is period poverty?

Generally, schools consider period poverty to be the inability to access sanitary items. The key barrier to period poverty is financial, however in some instances cultural and social situations may exacerbate the lack of access.

Schools noted many implications of period poverty, including:

  • Social embarrassment, stress and reduced self-esteem.

  • Making-shifting items out of ineffectual products such as toilet paper - increasing the risk of accidents and public bleeding.

  • Exacerbating Intergenerational poverty, and other social and gender issues.

  • Missing out on education, school sports and social activities during days when students have their period.

  • Increased workload from missing school and dealing with the stress associated to ‘catching up’.

Other outcomes of the initiative include:

  • 81% felt it reduced feelings of shame for students.

  • 87% of schools felt it improved their students’ self-esteem.

  • 69% felt it improved their ability to partake in sport.

  • Donations resulting in teachers/nurses no longer paying for the items themselves occurred in 85% of schools.

Other anecdotal outcomes:

  • Relief and happiness

  • Improved cleanliness (not having to use toilet paper as pads)

  • Less visits to the school nurse

  • Reduced cost to families

As Dignity evolves we are looking to expand our beneficiary base as well as advocate or free sanitary items in schools. This has been a growing trend in the UK as Britain, Wales and Scotland have supported sanitary products to be freely available. Our goal is to eradicate and research period poverty in New Zealand and then into the Pacific Islands. The work we do relate directly to SDGs 4, 5, 10 and 15.

Jacinta (Dignity Co-founder) at REAF (Refugee Education for Adults and Families)

Jacinta (Dignity Co-founder) at REAF (Refugee Education for Adults and Families)

What Dignity is doing to combat period poverty in New Zealand

Dignity operates a Buy-One Give-One initiative, which partners with organisations to provide free sanitary items to both their staff and local school students in New Zealand. Dignity’s overall mission is to create a movement for free sanitary items for all women in New Zealand.

Through providing free sanitary items, the Dignity initiative is having a direct impacts on students being able to attend school and feel supported through their periods.

At the beginning of our journey in May 2017, Flick Electric purchased 10 boxes and Miranda drove to our first local school to give away our first 10 boxes. Since then we have seen tremendous growth as seen in the graph below.

Many schools believe a government lead, community involved initiative to reduce or remove the cost of sanitary items would be beneficial in finding a sustainable solution to period poverty.

We want to share, advocate and lobby agencies to become:

  1. Aware of period poverty and the impact upon women

  2. Pledge to fund sanitary items in all schools to all girls providing them dignity and support for their education.

This research feeds into the wider work we are doing to bring our findings to government officials and media with the aim to inform wider, systemic change.

Dignity regularly meets with the Ministry of Women, Ministry of Education and other Period Poverty groups such as KidsCan, I Am Eva, The Period Place, and The Wā Collective to collaborate on innovative solutions as a period industry.

Jacinta and Miranda (Dignitys Co-founders) with our 2019 Term Two Give

Jacinta and Miranda (Dignitys Co-founders) with our 2019 Term Two Give