Campaigners have long called for the move amid research that suggests one in 12 young people miss school because of a lack of access to period products.
The prime minister’s announcement follows a successful pilot to introduce free sanitary products for about 3,200 pupils at 15 schools in the Waikato region last year.
“Young people should not miss out on their education because of something that is a normal part of life for half the population,” Ms Ardern said.
“Providing free period products at school is one way the government can directly address poverty, help increase school attendance, and make a positive impact on children’s wellbeing.”
Speaking at Fairfield College in Hamilton, which took part in the pilot, Ms Ardern said students had told her that period products should be made available for all who need them, when they need them.
“The positive response from schools and students to the pilot has encouraged us to expand the initiative to all New Zealand schools and kura,” she said.
Jan Tinetti, the minister for women, said the schools trial showed young people had faced embarrassment, stigma, missing classes, being “caught out” without period products, cost, lack of knowledge and discomfort.
“Feedback from the pilot noted that providing choice was important, both in types of products and the way they are accessed,” she said.
“Students also said they wanted information about periods, period products, and other practical elements of managing their period such as tracking and knowing when and who to reach out to for assistance.”
Ms Ardern aims to “halve child poverty” in a decade and ensure “children have a warm, dry home, access to healthcare, safe and healthy food, and the chance to have a childhood in which they’re free to learn and play”.
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