Sanitary needs for poor women – a life struggle or bad planning?

Students skipping school and university or using “newspaper, telephone books, rags,” as sanitary products has prompted a campaign to provide the necessary items to those in need.

Charities campaigning to bring awareness to the problem say young women and girls are missing out on school and university, and teachers have been paying for sanitary items due to their high cost.

The Salvation Army, a supermarket chain and a Labour MP were combining their efforts to raise awareness and call for donations of sanitary products for vulnerable young women and families in need.

A small crowd gathered outside the Salvation Army office on Wellington’s Cuba Street yesterday to listen to women and men talk about sanitary products and the struggles some students and families faced trying to afford them.

University students and the Union of Students’ Associations were also pushing to see them provided free in university medical centres.

Victoria University of Wellington students at the event said they had to devise all sorts of strategies when they could not afford sanitary products.

Siobhan O’Connor said when her period came a day or two before her pay came through, it put her under extra pressure.

“There’s nothing I can do to stop my period so [I’m] borrowing off friends, borrowing money off family. It has a huge impact on me.”

Emma Burgh said she had to make sacrifices to afford sanitary products and had to pass up food and hanging out with her friends, while another student, Emma Moffett, said tampons and pads were ridiculously expensive.

Labour Youth Affairs spokesperson Louisa Wall said the campaign took off after she was contacted by a school in Manurewa, South Auckland.

“Vaughn, who was my principal at James Cook High School – when I asked him how I could help him to help our students, he said ‘we need access to hygiene products’ and some of those were sanitary pads and tampons.

“What was happening for a lot of our students, they were either staying home or they were using newspaper, telephone books, rags – it was incredibly embarrassing for them.”

Ms Wall said not having access to sanitary hygiene products had a profound effect on women and people needed to change their attitude to what was considered a taboo topic.

“The dignity or loss of dignity for our young women and having to do that means it’s incumbent on us to provide them with the products that they need – and sanitary products are a necessity, they are not a luxury.”

Salvation Army territorial public relations director Shane Chisholm said the charity was seeing more demand than ever before for the products, and while men may not be directly affected, they needed to take responsibility for solving the problem as well.

“It wasn’t something I was aware of and I don’t think, speaking on behalf of many Kiwi males, we don’t think of these things and it’s something that needs to be communicated and we need to be educated about these things and be able to support as a community.

“It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s a community issue.”

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, but the way this reads is that women are biologically different thereby causing additional cost of living that men do not have to face.  This is therefore inherently unfair and needs to be addressed.

Do you think this is a fair position to take?  One week in four, women on tight budgets will need to sacrifice other parts of their spending where men don’t have this problem.

A case of “toughen up cupcake” or another area of genuine inequality that can be addressed by providing free sanitary products for those who fall below a line after a means test?



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