Tell us about yourself...
I am Rochelle, Share the Dignity's founder and Managing Director. The idea for Share the Dignity was started when I read an article about women experiencing homelessness and going without basic sanitary items during their menstrual cycle.
Tell us more about Share the Dignity…
Share the Dignity works to make a real, on-the-ground difference in the lives of women and girls experiencing homelessness, fleeing domestic violence or doing it tough. We distribute sanitary items to those in need and work to end period poverty here in Australia. When a woman is doing it tough, the last thing on her mind should be dealing with her period.
We are proud to partner with over 3,000 charities nationally, helping them to assist the women, girls and those who menstruate who desperately need access to period products. This is achieved through our Dignity Drives and Dignity Vending Machines. We also distribute the gift of a bag for those in need at Christmas time through our annual It’s in the Bag campaign.
Can you describe the steps you took to get to this point?
I started Share the Dignity in 2015, after reading an article about homeless women having to ‘improvise’ by using newspaper, toilet paper, and socks to manage their monthly period. Horrified by what I’d learned, and refusing to accept this as the norm, I started Share the Dignity by collecting packs of pads for each bottle of wine my personal training clients drank in the month of March and donating them to a local charity. Soon, passionate volunteers wanted to help, and with them came more donations, more charity requests, and a greater capacity to reach more vulnerable community members.
In the years that followed, Share the Dignity has grown into the huge national operation that it is today, with collection drives twice a year, along with an annual Christmas Appeal that has seen Share the Dignity collect and distribute 3.8 million period products in the years since. This growth was all possible through the hard work of our dedicated volunteers who have become a community of people who champion each other, and period equity across the country. Now, with thousands of charity requests each year for period products and It’s in the Bag donations, we have been able to pack and fill 725,860 bags for women, girls and anyone with a period.
What is your involvement with the loans.com.au Women, Children & Community Program?
loans.com.au have been supporters of Share the Dignity, donating at our Dignity Drives, ensuring that women and girls are given the dignity in life that so many of us take for granted.
What does support from companies like loans.com.au mean to your organisation?
Without our corporate volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to pack the huge number of bags required each year during our 'ItsintheBag' Christmas Appeal. While our dedicated volunteers and community supporters do an amazing job donating, collecting, and distributing the bags to charities, each year we are still left with a large deficit that we wouldn’t be able to fill without our corporate sponsors and volunteers working hard to help us fill the gaps.
How big is your network when it comes to distributing your donations?
Our network of volunteers (affectionately called our Sheroes and Heroes) are 6000 strong, working in their local community in locations Australia-wide. Through their passion and dedication, we are able to fill requests for more than 3000 charities and community organisations.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering or donating?
Donating to Share the Dignity, whether its period products during our Dignity Drives in March or August, a bag filled with essentials during #ItsInTheBag in November or a financial contribution makes such an incredible difference to women and girls doing it tough. What better way could you spend your time than making a difference.
We hear from the charities and people receiving these products just how much it means to them, to not have to choose between food or pads. To be able to go to school because they now have access to period products and don’t need to worry about how to manage their periods. To have fled their home with nothing more than the clothes on their back. No person should ever have to worry about their period like that.
Our Sheroes and Heroes, what we call our volunteers, are the backbone of Share the Dignity. Without them, we cannot run our initiatives and activities across Australia in our work towards ending period poverty.
We are so proud of the amazing community of Sheroes and Heroes we have at Share the Dignity, and it is so special to see the relationships that have been forged through a shared commitment to making the world a better place. We have seen groups establish strong connections and many socialise with each other, even holidaying together, and even volunteer at various charities together.
What are your plans for the future?
It is our vision at Share the Dignity to see a world without period poverty or the shame and stigma often faced by those who menstruate. This year we hosted the world’s first Global Period Poverty Forum in Brisbane, which brought together speakers from across the globe to discuss the challenges of the Menstrual Health Movement globally. This forum was an incredible success, and we are already in the planning stages of GPPF 2024. At home, we’re working to get our world-first Dignity Vending Machines, which distribute free period packs, into more schools across the country, while also advocating for free period products in all public hospitals through our #PadUpPublicHealth campaign.