Understanding the bigger picture
Poverty in New Zealand is the umbrella for so many issues: Child Poverty in NZ is known, what is little known is that child poverty is directed related to Period Poverty. A Kids Can survey found that Nearly 1/3 of all NZ children are living in poverty. 305,000 kiwi kids live in poverty (29%) and 148,000 kids (14%) go without the essentials - fruit, vegetables, warm housing and clothing. 9% of kids live in Severe poverty.
The stress of not being able to feed your children properly or keep them warm is overwhelming for parents. Mothers go without buying menstrual products for themselves to feed and clothe their children. This can be soul destroying and lead to feelings of exclusion and hopelessness. Talking about periods can be largely taboo, imagine having to ask for help with menstrual products, for some it is too embarrassing.
According to OECD’s 2017 Figures, child obesity rates are the highest in Greece, Italy and NZ. 1 in 8 kiwi children aged 2-4 years are obese. New research has found that childhood obesity may be responsible for a dramatic increase in early-onset of puberty in children. Obese children, defined as at least 10 kgs overweight, had a 80% chance of starting their period before the Age of 12. Early onset puberty can have serious health and social consequences such as feelings of confusion, exclusion and depression.
Some children are getting their periods as young at 8 or 9 years old and if there is not enough money for essential items such as food and paying the power bill, these children will not be going to school with menstrual products. Period poverty strikes young, these children have years of schooling ahead and missing a week each month will compromise their long-term learning outcomes.
In some cases schools are not prepared for this either, sanitary pods need to be installed in Primary School toilets to cope with children getting their periods earlier. Children also need education on periods at a younger age and know that they can ask for help if they need to.
There are a lot of people already out in this space doing amazing things in our communities; providing disposable menstrual products for schools, food banks and individuals. This is not always sustainable as each person has to go back month after month to ask for help, sometimes causing great heartache. There is a real gap in the market when it comes to reusable menstrual products, they are expensive and the cost can be overwhelming. Yet these products will save communities millions in the cost of disposables and support the environment on a huge scale.
Ultimately our dream is to improve outcomes for struggling families and children who get their periods from a young age. We will do this by providing quality education and products to improve long term outcomes around menstruation. These children will then go on to be adults who have a positive relationship with their bodies and in turn help their children to do the same.