A New Zealand supermarket chain is cutting the cost of more than a dozen women’s sanitary products, in an effort to tackle period poverty.
Countdown is cutting the prices of 15 in-house branded products, some by up to 48 per cent, to make them more affordable for women and girls across the country.
Corporate affairs general manager Kiri Hannifin said with period poverty both a worldwide phenomenon and a reality in New Zealand, the company wanted to step in and do its part.
“Too many women go without sanitary products themselves so they can provide essentials like food and rent for their family or, for some families, it’s simply something they can’t stretch their budgets to afford for their children.”
Pharmac last April rejected a request to fund all women’s sanitary items, with the Government drug-buying agency saying sanitary products were not medicines.
In 2016 Countdown, The Salvation Army and Manurewa MP Louisa Wall, launched an initiative via The Foodbank Project to help stock the charity’s foodbanks with sanitary products.
Since then, more than $190,000 of tampons and sanitary pads have been donated through the scheme.
“Female sanitary products aren’t a luxury but for Kiwi girls, women and families on tight budgets or low incomes, they’re an expense that is simply out of reach. We’ve all got to work together to address this issue and make it easier to ask for help,” Wall said.
She had heard stories of girls and young women having resorted to makeshift measures such as wearing socks in their underwear or using types of paper or torn sheets and cloth as sanitary protection when they couldn’t afford sanitary items.
“Period poverty limits opportunities for current and future generations of Kiwi women and the impact is much greater than missing a few days of school or not participating in sport or other social activities every month.”
Wall’s sentiments have been backed up by The Salvation Army’s national secretary for social services Pamela Waugh who stressed that more conversations needed to be had to better address this issue.
“We know that poverty of all kinds can follow people throughout their lifetime. It’s essential women who are making every effort to support themselves and their families are not held back because they can’t fit sanitary products in their budget.
“Sanitary products are essential items for women, not a luxury item for the privileged,” Waugh said.
Laura Henderson, one of the founders of Wellington-based cooperative Go with the Flow which collects and distributes sanitary products to those who need them most, applauded the move by Countdown.
“Big kudos to them for jumping on board … to have recognition from major companies is a huge step in the right direction.”
Along with co-founder Natasha Pennell, Henderson works with individuals and businesses around the region to help tackle period poverty and cut through the “shame and stigma” that can often be associated with periods.
Countdown’s move to lower the price of its Homebrand and Select tampons and pads is expected to save customers $750,000 a year.
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