© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

Public react to cost of women's sanitary essentials

Rachel Das
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Countdown and The Salvation Army are making sanitary item donations easy.   Rachel Das

A school nurse says the cost of sanitary items is penalising women for being... women.

Linwood College nurse Jennifer Dean believed pads and tampons should be subsidised by either the government or supermarkets.

"The cost of sanitary essentials is prohibitive, especially for families struggling financially."

"The sensitive nature of a girl's period means we don't get a clear picture of the situation, but I'm sure sanitary items create quite a hole in the grocery budget for families," Dean said.

School and university attendants had been identified as people who would find it challenging to find the extra money for the hygiene essentials. 

We ask the public: are sanitary items too expensive?

Public opinion is mixed on the cost of basic female hygiene essentials.

The Salvation Army and Countdown had started a women's hygiene project, which encouraged people to donate reduced-price women's pads and tampons. 

Shoppers could drop their extra sanitary items in the Salvation Army foodbank boxes at the back of Countdown stores and the  Salvation Army would distribute these to Kiwi women who struggled to buy essential, once-a-month items.

"It's something which is very hidden because of it's personal nature, so it's very hard to find out exactly if this is what's happening but I'd imagine it is," Dean said.

She said low-decile Christchurch schools gave out pads and tampons to girls in need.

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Student Tracey Osai believes the government should subsidise sanitary items.

21 year old student Tracey Osai said companies were making money off women's monthly need for tampons.

"They're just so expensive and personally, I sometimes forget that I've run out. I go to the store to get them and sometimes I don't have the money to get it and then I freak out because: 'What am I going to use?'," Osai said.

"You see those facts about substituting toilet paper but it's not healthy. You've got to do it just to wait til you can get some more."

Osai said it was hard not being able to help out friends when they ask for a spare pad or tampon.

"Hopefully the government will make a choice to make sanitary essentials free and put them somewhere where women can grab and go off and enjoy the rest of her day without fear if she's leaking (blood) or not," Osai said.

Cassie Amos
Cassie Amos wonders why women have to pay for essential sanitary items, while condoms for guys are free.

Opinion on the street was mixed, although overwhelmingly in support of a government subsidy.

19 year old Cassie Amos questioned the expense of women's sanitary items, comparing the situation to guys being given condoms for free.

"I do think they are too expensive for something that we're required to have. Condoms are given out to men because they need them, whereas women have to have them (sanitary items)," Amos said.

"If we went to a school nurse, I don't recall being given pads or tampons for free but I've been given more condoms in my life."

"I do think we are almost being penalised. It's not a pleasant experience. Nobody actually likes it (having their period). I don't like to spend $10-$20 if I need quite a few things."

Amos suggested community service card subsidies for tampons could be a way of helping those who needed it most.

However, a student studying here from China said the cost of sanitary products was comparable to New Zealand's higher prices for everything else.

"Everything here is expensive," she said.

She agreed government subsidies would be ideal.