Feb. 18 (UPI) -- New Zealand will provide access to free period products in schools beginning in June, government officials announced Thursday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced the program will provide products to all primary, intermediate, secondary school and kura, or Maori-language immersion schools.
"Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population," Ardern said. "Removing barriers to healthy, active, educational outcomes for children and young people is an important part of the Government's Youth and Wellbeing Strategy."
The program is aimed at combatting "period poverty," a term describing situations in which people who need period products are unable to afford them.
Tinetti also said that students expressed issues related to periods including embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.
The Ministry of Education will work alongside suppliers to initiate a phased rollout of the program with products available in June for schools that opt-in by March. Schools will also be able to opt-in at a later date.
The announcement follows a pilot program launched midway through the last school year which provided products to 3,200 students.
"Feedback from the pilot noted that providing choice was important, both in types of products and the way they are accessed," Tinetti said. "Students also said they wanted information about periods, period products and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance."
Last year Scotland became the first country to provide free access to menstrual products nationwide and in 2018 made menstrual hygiene products free for students at schools and universities.