Teenage girls throughout New Zealand are missing school or risking their health because their families can't afford feminine care products.
This is an issue that has been reported before in New Zealand, and charities say it can be even more of a problem at this time of year because many families struggle with back-to-school costs.
Salvation Army National Manager of Welfare Services, Major Pam Waugh, says foodbanks are in desperate need for women's feminine care products, to support those families in need and remove a barrier to getting their girls to school.
"Sanitary products are a basic necessity for women and should not have to be a luxury item, but many of our young Kiwi women are staying home when they have their period, or worse, making makeshift products or recycling old pads so they can still attend school," she says.
"In many cases, this is leading to even more health problems, which means more time off school and additional shame and humiliation for both the girls and the parents," she says.
Countdown, The Salvation Army, U BY KOTEX® Brand and Member of Parliament for Manurewa, Louisa Wall, have been working together to address the issue.
U BY KOTEX® Brand has kicked off a national donation campaign in Countdown supermarkets by gifting 4000 packs of tampons and pads to The Salvation Army, and is calling on customers to take advantage of a special two for $9 price exclusive to Countdown to encourage donations across the country.
As well, U BY KOTEX® Brand and Countdown will match donations up to a further 1000 bundles via The Foodbank Project, New Zealand's only online foodbank.
The appeal starts today and will run through to Sunday February 18.
Louisa Wall says as well as shining a light on this issue, we need to encourage young women to speak up.
"We must continue to make feminine care products more accessible but importantly we also need to teach and encourage our young women to be bold, overcome their fears of embarrassment and reach out to the school nurse or counsellor about needing feminine care products. We also need to make it easy and okay to ask for help," she says.
"It's hard and sometimes embarrassing to discuss periods, but there are so many services and facilities available to help our young women. We need to keep talking about and highlighting this issue so it doesn't stay hidden from our society."
Countdown's General Manager of Corporate Affairs Kiri Hannifin says, "Since we started talking about this issue more than 29,500 feminine care products worth over $106,000 has already been donated to The Salvation Army to distribute to families where girls and young women would otherwise go without."