Positive Women Inc. started campaigning for female condoms by participating in the international Paper Doll Campaign to raise awareness of female condoms as well as education and programming needed to support their use. Along with the YWCA we spoke at events and schools and encouraged people to add messages of support for female condoms to these paper dolls. All the paper dolls from all over the world were made into massive chains and presented at an international conference on FC’s in the Netherlands and to the UN Population Fund highlighting the growing worldwide demand for female condoms. Positive Women continued with the Paper Doll campaign nationally calling for female condoms to be made available in New Zealand.
At the same time as the Paper Doll campaign, we started selling FC2 female condoms imported from Australia but in late 2012 received a strongly worded letter from MedSafe to cease or face a large fine as the selling of female condoms is illegal. The FC2 is made of nitrile, a synthetic latex that does not have the required approval. We asked MedSafe if we could sell female condoms made of latex, which is what male condoms are made of, but this inquiry was met by silence. It wasn’t long after PWI sent letters to all government officials with health portfolios asking for their support that MedSafe announced that they were undertaking a consultation process on the FC2.
On the eve of International Women’s Day, March 7th 2014 we presented hundreds of paper dolls with their messages of support and a petition from the NZ public to Labour MP Carol Beaumont, Spokesperson for Women's Affairs with the hope that this would lend support to the Ministry of Health approving the sale of female condoms in New Zealand.
Exactly one month later we got the great news that Tony Ryall, Minister of Health had approved an amendment to the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 to allow for the sale of female condoms within New Zealand.
The next battle will be to ensure they are subsidized so they are not only available but affordable, at the same level as the male condom.
FC2 condoms became publicly available via the GLYDE Healthcare website from May 1st and retail stockists across New Zealand had them for sale the next day.
PWI was asked to write a submission to the Health Sub-Committee in support of Glyde Healthcare’s application asking for the cost of female condoms to be subsidised at the same level as male condoms.
In late October, Positive Women Inc. was invited to present its case in regards to availability and subsidy of the Female Condom, to the Health Select Committee on the 5th of November.
Unfortunately we only received 5 days’ notice and the Family Hui was in-between so we didn’t have much time to rally a support team to accompany the National Coordinator, however the team from Body Positive Wellington and Deb and Ally from Wellington Sexual Health came along to lend support.
The whole process was rather exciting. There were 10 members on the Health Select Committee all representing different government parties. The room was set out in a horse shoe shape with the Chair of the Committee (Simon O’Connor, National Party Tamaki) at the bend of the horseshoe and the PWI National Coordinator, Jane Bruning at the opposite end of the horse shoe.
Jane presented a short case for the Female condom providing a practical visual demonstration and then opened up the floor for questions. There were many questions and what appeared to be some very genuine interest in the topic.
The Health Select Committee will now meet with members from the Health Department and make a decision after hearing from all affected parties. It was suggested this would take months rather than weeks so we do not expect any results until the early part of 2015.
In the meantime Positive Women Inc. has continued its campaign by supporting a summation by GLYDE Health Care New Zealand to PHARMAC requesting for the Female Condom to be subsidised so we are working at it from a number of angles, although they all have to come together to make the final decision.
We will keep you informed as things progress.
Press Release 10th June 2011 YWCA Aotearoa New Zealand unites with Positive Women Inc. over Female Condoms and Paper Dolls
Press Release November 20th 2013 All We Want for Christmas is Access to Female Condoms
Press Release 5 March 2014 Paper Dolls to be Presented to Parliament in Support of Bringing Female Condoms to New Zealand
Press Release 7 April 2014 Female Condoms Finally Given the Stamp of Approval and Will Be Available in New Zealand