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Addressing period poverty is a step towards gender equality

08 March 2020

Statement

Addressing period poverty is a step towards gender equality

Today on International Women’s Day, the peak body for obstetrics and gynaecology calls for government action to enable free access for women and girls to sanitary products.

More than three million people in Australia live below the poverty line. Over half of this number are women and girls who live with the recurring costs of menstruation despite their financial situation.

RANZCOG President, Dr Vijay Roach said, “No woman or girl, wherever they live, should have to compromise their health or confidence because they cannot afford the products they need to stay healthy. Around the world there are movements to end period poverty and we should be following suit”.

In New Zealand, around 13% of the population experience hardship. Children are significantly over-represented in this group with statistics sitting at 18%, well above comparative rates in European countries.

Factors such as childbearing, unpaid care work and superannuation stalling, place women at increased risk of experiencing sustained poverty. Women who are a single parent, experiencing violence, homelessness, living through natural disaster or in female-led households are even more vulnerable.

A recent survey in New Zealand reports one-in-five women have missed work or school because they cannot access sanitary products. For respondents under the age of 17, 29% have skipped school because they cannot afford pads or tampons.
 
New Zealand Vice-President Dr John Tait has said, “It is concerning when women, and especially high-school aged girls are unable to be and do their best because they cannot afford or access the sanitary items they need. We know that education provides opportunities out of hardship. We do women, girls and our communities a disservice if we do nothing to remove this barrier.”

As the world celebrates women and girls and contemplates how to forge a gender equal world, RANZCOG believes removing the cost of menstruation is a step towards making this goal reality.




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