The State Government has started to roll out a free period product program to all public high schools across Western Australia.
More than 220 schools with students from year 7 to 12 will have access to pads, tampons and liners, at no cost to the school.
Share the Dignity marketing and communications coordinator Brittiny Edwards says a lack of access to sanitary products is a significant barrier to education for students living in poverty.
“They’re using unsuitable alternatives. They can spend a lot of the day worrying about bleeding through their uniform and it means that they lose concentration. For some people, it means they might not be able to attend school at all,” she says.
Ms Edwards says while the McGowan government’s initiative is a big step in the right direction, more work is needed.
“It’s fantastic to see this provided to high school students,” she says.
“But we do know that 25 per cent of people are 11 or younger when they get their first period, so obviously it would be great to see something provided to primary school students as well.”
Essity Manufacturing has been awarded the contract to supply the products.
The company’s business to business director Jody Scaife says period care products are essential items that should be available to everyone.
“Our research shows 67 per cent of teenage girls would rather fail a subject than have their peers know they have their period,” she says.
“We believe that when schools make period products more readily accessible, it doesn’t just make life easier for their staff and students but sends an important message that can help students’ confidence and wellbeing.”
A study conducted by Plan International Australia in 2022 found one out of more than three Australian boys think periods should be kept secret and 49 per cent of respondents say their education on periods was poor or non-existent.
Plan International chief executive Australia Susanne Legena says the stigma surrounding menstruation also prevents young women from attending school when on their period.
“What we know from evidence [is] despite the fact that 50 per cent of the population are getting a period every month, and it’s a pretty normal part of our lives, it’s actually a barrier for people to be able to claim all of their rights,” she says.
Ms Legena says the government should also develop programs to educate all students.
“The provision of products is one thing they can do, but to remove the stigma you really need to think about the education that goes along with that … to make it something we can talk about without shame,” she says.
“I think the provision of products in this way kind of levels the playing field for everybody and makes it something that everyone can access.
“That has got to be a good thing.”