After reading in 2015 that homeless women Australia-wide were making sanitary pads out of public restroom toilet paper because they couldn’t afford to buy them, Rochelle Courtenay started a small sanitary collection in her Brisbane neighbourhood. She donated the items to a local women’s shelter.
Through demand, the not-for-profit charity Share the Dignity was born, providing homeless and at-risk women Australia-wide with sanitary items. More than 4000 volunteers and some of Australia’s biggest corporates are now behind the charity, which has collected in excess of1.5 million packets of sanitary items since its formation.
Rochelle, affectionately known as “Pad lady” designed a world-first Dignity Vending Machine, known as the Pinkbox. The vending machines are purposely designed to dispense a free period pack of sanitary items. By the end of 2018, there will be 100 Pinkboxes installed in poverty-stricken schools, homeless centres, domestic violence shelters and areas of severe poverty Australia-wide.
Furthermore, Share the Dignity now runs a Christmas appeal called #Itsinthebag. In the last two weeks of November, women are asked to donate a pre-loved or new handbag filled with sanitary items plus some of other life’s essentials like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush and any other gift they may wish to donate.
More recently, Rochelle and her team of national supporters successfully campaigned the Federal Government to abolish the GST on sanitary items stating: “It’s not fair or right to have GST on sanitary items because they’re a basic human right and not a luxury. Ferrero Rochers are a luxury in my house.”