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Free sanitary products for all New Zealand schools to beat period poverty, Ardern announces

Wellington-As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared on Thursday, all New Zealand schools would have free access to sanitary products from June, an effort aimed at stamping out the country's time of poverty.

The announcement follows a popular pilot campaign initiated in the middle of last year that supported around 3,200 young people in 15 schools with free-period items.

"Providing free period products at school is one way the government can directly address poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children's well-being," Ardern said in a statement.

"We want to see improved engagement, learning and behaviour, fewer young people missing school because of their period, and reduced financial hardship amongst families of participating students."

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Ardern said studies found that because of this problem, one in 12 young people skipped school. She said the cost of the initiative would be NZ$25 million ($17.96 million) by 2024.

Women's Minister Jan Tinetti said the problems with school time included humiliation, shame, skipping lessons, getting 'caught out' without goods, price, loss of information and discomfort.

"Students wanted information about periods, period products, and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance," she said.

The government will work with suppliers to manage a phased roll-out of the scheme, she said.

The youngest female prime minister when she came to power in 2017, Ardern is seen as a global icon and a champion for women's rights. She swept the polls in October, securing a second term in office on the back of her government's success in containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Her pregnancy and maternity leave while in office in 2018 was hailed as symbolizing progress for women leaders. She made headlines around the world when she took her three-month old daughter with her while attending the UN General Assembly in New York.

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