NSW Government Has Announced Free Menstrual Hygiene Products for Public Schools
In much needed good news, the NSW Government has announced a $30million program to provide free pads and tampons to public schools.
The measure seeks to address the growing issue of “period poverty” in Australia. Period poverty refers to the inability to purchase pads and tampons. Women who experience period poverty are more likely to suffer anxiety and depression, and have a more difficult time finding employment. The impacts of period poverty on young women and girls are even more acute. It is well documented that period poverty impacts school attendance globally. A 2021 US study reported that 23% of female students struggled to afford menstrual hygiene products. Of these students 67% reported they had missed out on school time because they couldn’t access necessary products. In 2018, 137,700 UK girls missed school because because they couldn’t access sanitary products.
NSW Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell expressed hope that free sanitary supplies would help women and girls succeed at school. “Getting your period should not be a barrier to education,” Mitchell said. She continued: “This program is providing schools with dispensers, tampons and pads for free and is supporting young women’s health, engagement and attendance at school.”
Mitchell said that during the pilot program in the South West Sydney and Dubbo region, the availability of free sanitary supplies had “a positive impact on educational engagement and attainment” for young women and girls.
Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor said, “This great initiative is about ensuring our young women have the support they need, with dignity and without barriers, as they continue their education journey.” She expressed hope that the move would encourage further discussion. “By openly discussing periods, endometriosis and reproductive health we are removing the taboo around women’s health issues,” Taylor said.
Rochelle Courtenay, founder of Share the Dignity and Dress for Dignity, two organisations focused on providing essential supplies for women experiencing financial hardship, was thrilled with the news. Courtenay said, “We currently have 24 Dignity vending Machines in NSW and have advocated for state governments to provide access to sanitary items in all schools. No girl should ever miss a day of education because their family cannot afford the basic essentials.”
The program is expected to be rolled out to every school in NSW by June 30th 2022.