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85,000 women and girls each month cannot access sanitary products when they need them. And we’re talking about Australia alone. Sure, it’s not a ‘sexy’ subject but it is a very important one we need to be talking about now.

The statistic is a staggering one but..

 

Let’s remember that these women and girls are not numbers. They’re homeless women, women in domestic violence shelters, women and girls in dire poverty who simply can’t afford sanitary products. The end result?

“They improvise – they use paper towels, newspapers, socks, even dried leaves to create makeshift sanitary pads. It’s traumatic, embarrassing and undignified,” says Share the Dignity CEO, Rochelle Courtenay.

In modern day Australia or whatever other location you may be reading this article from, we can all agree that this situation is simply unacceptable. And yet, it exists and women and girls are forced to experience this trauma in 2017.

women and girls

Enter Share the Dignity.

 

In 2015, Courtenay embarked on a mission to help change things for disadvantaged women in Australia by hosting her first sanitary drive in her own neighbourhood in Brisbane. Fast-forward two years and the Share the Dignity movement has gained traction nationally and continues to grow. So much so that high profile and much-loved Aussie actress, Rebecca Gibney, is putting her weight behind the 2017 drive after signing on as a patron for the worthy cause.

Why is this important?

 

It’s simple: with a little bit of effort, we can each make a difference. I’m not sure about you but I remember being younger and feeling incredibly insecure about what is actually, a very natural monthly occurrence for women. I remember loathing having to wear a white dress to school and having to ask for permission to go to the toilet more often during classes. It was embarrassing and I hated every second of it.

And yet, I can’t even fathom having to ‘improvise’ once a month because my family simply can’t afford sanitary products. It’s not good enough and the reality is, we need to each be and fight for the change we want to see. It’s not good enough to shirk your responsibility because this isn’t a problem that impacts you directly. You never know in life, someday it may. It’s not good enough to turn a blind eye when we know there is a solution.

So what can you do?

 

From August 1 to 31, Share the Dignity will hold its second collection drive for 2017, in which it will welcome donated packets of tampons and pads to distribute to women in need.

“It’s so easy to be part of the solution,” Courtenay stresses as she adds that from a handful of volunteers, there are now over 1000 volunteers right across Australia, working to help women in need and collecting items from over 2000 donation points across the country.

“Simply donate a packet of tampons or pads to our readily accessible collection points that are listed on our website. Every item makes a difference and that difference is profound.”

Once collected, each item is registered, sorted and then sent onto services that directly support women and girls in need.

women and girlsIn addition to these upcoming Dignity Drives, Share the Dignity has started rolling out its Pinkbox Dignity vending machines that distribute free sanity items to those in need. The first batch will be installed by the end of July, with an additional 20 vending machines planned for installation before the end of this year.

An Australian-first, the Pinkbox Dignity Vending Machine holds 60 ‘period packs’ – each pack contains two pads and six tampons, catering for one day of menstrual flow. The machine locations have been carefully considered so as to prioritise their installation in low socioeconomic areas throughout the country. The packs themselves are dispensed at the touch of a button every ten minutes.

“Discreet placement of vending machines helps to remove the stigma and embarrassment of having to asking for sanitary products,” says Courtenay.

Unfortunately, these machines don’t come without a cost with each machine costing $9,000 to manufacture, deliver, stock and install with 1,000 period packs. The first 20 machine installations have been funded by the Queensland Government’s Dignity First Initiative, the RACV, Eureka Conveyancing and donations generated from the Share the Dignity fundraising campaign. The charity aims to install another 30 vending machines nationwide by the end of 2017.

Can you help? If you’d like to sponsor a Dignity Vending Machine or the period packs, contact Share the Dignity. You can also find your local collection point online.

Sarah Cannata

Founding editor at This Woman Can
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can and is the author of the picture book, Willow Willpower. She's a self-confessed introvert who believes quality storytelling can change the world.
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