A financially strapped job seeker says she was told by
Auckland Work and Income staff she could not use a
supermarket card for tampons or sanitary pads because they
were considered luxury items.
The Ministry of Social Development has said the only items
that cannot be bought on payment cards are electronics,
appliances, alcohol and cigarettes.
The allegation has ignited a storm on social media after
blogger Tulia Thompson wrote about it and described it as
Ms Thompson said the incident happened about six weeks ago at
the Queen St Winz office.
The woman was provided with a supermarket card and told it
was for "necessity items only" and she could not use it for
various "luxury items" including tampons and pads, she said.
"Supermarket cards are only given out when the beneficiary is
in serious financial hardship. Nevertheless, the exclusion of
tampons and pads from the list of 'necessity items' that
beneficiaries can buy when in financial hardship is a fairly
extreme example of institutionalised sexism," she said.
Ms Thompson said another woman tried to use a Winz
supermarket card at the check-out at her local supermarket,
and the card didn't work.
"The cashier called Winz to find out why the card wouldn't
work, and found out it was because she had tampons amongst
the items she was purchasing. She had to return them."
Ms Thompson said another woman had contacted her in response
to the blog to say the same thing had happened to her at a
supermarket and the reason her card was rejected was because
her sanitary item had been incorrectly labelled in the
supermarket system to "pull-ups".
Ms Thompson said clearly there needed to be better
communication between supermarkets and Winz to ensure women
were not embarrassed at the check-out counter.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Social Development said any
claims that female hygiene products could not be purchased
using the Work and Income payment card were "totally untrue".
"Individual items are not tagged on payment cards. If
someone's card doesn't work, it would be for a system reason
and not because of what the person bought.
"The only items banned from purchase on the payment cards are
electronics, appliances, alcohol and cigarettes."
But the spokeswoman said if people had a specific case or
example where they had been incorrectly advised by a case
manager, please contact Work and Income so they could look
Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett was not
immediately available for comment but she posted on Twitter
"Rumours that women can't buy tampons with Work and Income
payment cards are simply not true.end of story."
People who read Ms Thompson's blog have also taken to Twitter
to express their opinions about the issue using the hashtag
@surlymermaid wrote: "Compulsory hysterectomies for all who
are foolish enough to demand a benefit whilst being in
possession of a uterus #UnnecessaryTampons."
@MoataTamaira wrote: "Ha! If you're banished to the
menstruating hut at the borders of the village for the week
you don't need #unnecessarytampons #knowyourplace."
But @caffeine-addict tweeted: "Hey peeps the
#unnecessarytampons thing is a cock up. Of course WINZ
provides this. If WINZ or supermarkets say otherwise they're
@chrisphilpottnz pointed out: "Do nappies count as 'luxury
items'? Problem solved. #unnecessarytampons."
@CMRanapia tweeted: "Stupid whinging beneficiaries, you can
make your own #unnecessarytampons out of lint, cat hair and
And @juliefairey tweeted: "Look, we all know beneficiaries
will just leap at the chance to get free tampons and on-sell
them on the black market #unnecessarytampons."
- Rebecca Quilliam of APNZ