Free period products will be made available to students at the University of Auckland in Semester Two, following donations by staff to the ‘Staff for Students: Wellbeing Fund’. The fund, established last year, encourages staff to make one-off or regular salary donations to the trust in order to finance initiatives to support student health and wellbeing. This initiative marks the first investment of this fund since its inception.
Access to period products remains an issue across New Zealand. ‘Period Poverty’ refers to people being unable to access menstrual products due to cost. Research in this area has been led by two New Zealand researchers, Associate Professor Terryann Clark from the University of Auckland and Dr. Terry Fleming from Victoria University of Wellington. Their research, which is part of the ‘Youth19’ study released in February, showed that 12.5% of Year 9 to 13 students who had had their first period were unable to access menstrual items due to cost. 7.5% had missed school because they couldn’t access period products. This percentage rose to 20% in lower income areas. Māori are also disproportionately affected by period poverty. The study showed that 19% of Māori youth have experienced period poverty.
The free period product initiative is in partnership with the AUSA and is being piloted in several places on campus, including first-year halls of residence (Grafton Hall, O’Rorke Hall, Waipārūrū Hall, and University Hall Towers), AUSA House, and at University Health and Counselling.
Anne-Marie Parsons, Associate Director of Student Wellbeing and Engagement, said in a statement to UniNews that the initiative is a “pragmatic” way to support students during what has been a “highly stressful” year. Parsons noted this was especially important since many students have faced financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anamika Harirajh, Welfare Vice-President for the AUSA, supported these statements from Parsons. Harirajh says “period poverty is a real issue” for students of the university and that making period products free for students is a “big step towards creating a university that is equitable for all”.
The pilot will run until the end of Semester Two before reviewing ongoing options for students.