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Universities have been asked if they would consider introducing free tampons and pads for students, after Radio New Zealand reported that students were skipping school and university due to the struggle to meet costs of sanitary products.
A month’s supply of sanitary products can cost between $5 and $15, depending on the brand, type, and amount used.
A Victoria University spokesperson said that although the matter had not previously been raised by students, the university was “willing to work with students to fully understand the issues and implications of the concerns that have been raised.”
Linsey Higgins, New Zealand Union of Students’ Association’s President, said that universities should be proactive and commented that “condoms are free and sanitary products are more essential than condoms.”
Labour MP Louisa Wall said that “some girls stay home when it’s their period because they cannot afford sanitary products. Others resort to makeshift and unhygienic measures such as recycling used pads or improvising pads from old clothes, rags, newspapers, and other materials—putting them at risk of infection and sickness.”
This the case for high school students as well as university students, who “can’t afford to take public transport or have to skip meals when it’s their period so they have money to buy pads and tampons.”
New York City Council recently voted to introduce free sanitary products in all of its public schools, prisons, and homeless shelters.
Mooncups, a silicone menstrual cup, are an environmentally friendly alternative to sanitary products which can save money in the long term, however they have a high initial cost of approximately $50.
Wall has encouraged people to donate sanitary products through The Foodbank Project (www.foodbank.org.nz). An initiative set up by The Salvation Army, Countdown supermarkets, and web developer Lucid. There is now an option for a $15 “Women’s Hygiene Bundle” which provides both super and regular tampons and pads.