Leading with Vision: A Discussion with The Hon. Jan Tinetti about Ending Period Poverty & Making New Zealand the Best Place to be a Child

Spread the love

When Lynne Golodner heard that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, was spearheading a nationwide effort to provide period products in all K-12 schools, she wanted to hear her story. So, she reached out to see if the Kiwi leader might consider coming on the Make Meaning Podcast.

Of course, a Prime Minister is rather busy, and when she declined the interview, she suggested instead that Lynne speak with the Hon. Jan Tinetti – a member of Parliament for the Labour Party who is Associate Minister of Education and Minister for Women. 


Tinetti was a guest on the 107th episode of the Make Meaning Podcast, and she spoke with Lynne about her nation’s response to New Zealand’s most pressing issues. Resolving perennial problems comes down to an overarching philosophical focus driving leadership, Tinetti said. 

The goal is to make New Zealand “the best place to be a child,” Tinetti explained on the podcast. By achieving that – a childhood where you have everything you need, you are cared for, connected and secure – children can grow into confident, whole adults who contribute and do not desire to leave for somewhere better. What a brilliant way to lead, says Lynne

The Evolution of a Purpose

Tinetti’s journey began locally, as a teacher and principal of Merivale School in Tauranga. Her experiences with students and families inspired not only her desire to stand for Parliament, but also continue to guide her in the legislation she works on.

“I loved being a school teacher and being a school principal,” Tinetti said. “They were the best jobs I’ve ever had. Working with young people, you are making a difference on a day-to-day level and it is absolutely amazing.”


While Tinetti thought she knew her purpose, she recognized that Merivale was located in one of New Zealand’s lowest socioeconomic areas, and a lot of students weren’t receiving the care they needed to succeed. The school worked hard to change things for the better, but Tinetti realized she could do more for local families – and for families across the country – if she ascended to leadership.

“I got to the point where we were only changing things on a surface level,” she shared with Lynne on the podcast. “If we wanted to make a real difference, I had to be in government.”

Today, Tinetti serves as Minister of Internal Affairs along with her roles as Minister for Women and Associate Minister of Education. These positions inspire Tinetti to get involved in unique and vital discussions about how government can support children and families on a daily basis toward long-lasting change and societal success.

Think Big to Imagine a Different Way

In 2021, Tinetti led the rollout of Prime Minister Ardern’s period poverty initiative, providing free period products to all New Zealand K-12 schools.

This initiative is one example of how an increased number of women in Parliament shines the light on different needs, and inspires different legislation, Tinetti said. Nearly half of New Zealand Parliamentarians today are women.

Through her time in schools, Tinetti noticed that girls and women, including students as young as six, were missing a week of school every month due to limited or no access to period products. 

“Fifty percent of our population have periods, and we had not come up with any solutions around it,” Tinetti said. 

The program, which every school is projected to sign up for, is beneficial in many ways. The plan aims to educate and empower all young people about menstrual health – not just girls, says Tinetti.

“Girls and boys were still separated when being taught about periods,” she said. “Boys need to know this information too. When I said that to crowds of students, the boys in the audience began nodding.”

Mission Driven

The most far-reaching work comes when we know why we do something, and for whom. Most people who pursue purpose-driven work realize that they want to help a focused audience in a specific way.

“Young people and their families live in my heart every single day,” Tinetti says. “Every single decision I make, I think back to how this will impact them.

This level of intention is not unique to Tinetti, though. It’s a trend in the New Zealand Parliament, which was admired the world over for its swift and successful response early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In every situation, Tinetti and her colleagues believe in putting the people they serve at the center of their efforts. The country’s well-being budget exemplifies this philosophy, with a variety of goals for reducing child poverty, among other issues, with annual reporting requirements.

This episode was a personal triumph for Lynne Golodner. When she first reached out to see if someone would come on the podcast about the period poverty initiative, she shared the idea with her family. One of her teenagers remarked, “No offense, Mom, but why would a government minister in New Zealand want to talk to a small business owner in America?”

“Well, if you don’t shoot high, you don’t have a chance of reaching your goal,” Lynne replied. “Why not try?”

That passion to tell a great story and connect with meaning-driven people anywhere in the world drives the Make Meaning Podcast, and it turns out that Lynne’s ambitions paid off. The interview was one of the most fun she ever conducted, with Minister Tinetti live on Zoom from her government office, warm and smiling and eager to chat for more than a half-hour.