WELLINGTON, June 15 (Xinhua) -- The first period products funded as part of the government's nationwide rollout are being delivered to schools this week, as part of wider efforts to combat child poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children's wellbeing, a New Zealand official said on Tuesday.
"We know that nearly 95,000 9-to-18 year olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products. By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school," Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti said in a statement.
About 1,680 schools have now opted-into the "access to period products in schools" initiative, and these schools now can place orders for tampons and pads, Tinetti said, adding schools that have not yet opted-in to the initiative can continue to do so.
The positive response from students to the pilot program has encouraged the government to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools. The nationwide rollout will reach over 300,000 female students, or 75 percent of eligible students who likely menstruate, she said.
Feedback from schools shows there's an urgent need for free period products, so this first phase of the nationwide rollout is focused on getting products into schools "as simply and quickly as possible," she added.
Subsequent phases will refine the distribution model -- for example student direct orders, bulk supply distributed through a trusted adult, dispenser units in bathrooms -- and look at education tools, Tinetti said.
It is the latest in a series of government programs to reduce barriers to education for all students. Others in the series include healthy free school lunches, the abolition of exam fees, and the replacement of school donations.