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Share the Dignity: easing a monthly struggle

Beatrice Smith

Some charities tackle big picture issues that affect far off, developing countries like unsanitary drinking water and disease outbreak, banding together with other large conglomerate charities to achieve macro scale goals.

Some charities, however, identify an issue so local, hidden and unaddressed that their work immediately becomes an indispensable part of the fabric of their community through the awareness they raise and spirits they mend. Share The Dignity is the latter, with their grassroots start in Brisbane earlier this year blossoming rapidly outwards to now collect donations in all Australian states and territories.

“Oh my god, does this really happen? It’s 2015!” This is how Rochelle, co-founder of Share the Dignity, describes her reaction when she learned that homeless women had to often choose between their next meal and sanitary items.

Sanitary items have received an usually large amount of media coverage in recent times due to the backlash over the ‘period tax’, a movement that highlighted that while some ‘essential items’ such as incontinence pads, condoms and sunscreen are excluded from the GST, sanitary products are not.

Generosity at Moxom and Whitney, an ACT Share the Dignity collection point. Image:

Generosity at Moxom and Whitney, an ACT Share the Dignity collection point. Image: Moxom and Whitney Facebook page

The average price of a pack of ten sanitary pads or tampons is around $7 from a supermarket. If a homeless woman needs sanitary products for all seven days of her period – changing her sanitary products at least four times every day, every four hours – then $21 per month is what it will cost her to purchase the 28 sanitary items she will need to remain hygienic over this week. This is aside from the absence of the comforts many of us enjoy around that time of the month such as hot water bottles, painkillers or a warm, comfortable bed.

Even for employed women with homes, this cost may be a burden, but for a woman without shelter it becomes a monthly struggle. Napkins, tissues or toilet paper replace sanitised products, public bathrooms become showers and dark clothes become necessary if and when these measures fail.

Shelters and charity organisations have supplies of sanitary items but as Rochelle says “they’re always the last things to be donated and always the first things to go.” Theft of sanitary items sometimes becomes the only options for women desperate not to ruin their clothes or be publicly mocked.

“You couldn’t do anything about it, because really, what are you going to do?” says Rochelle, explaining the plight of security guards who see homeless women stealing sanitary items. “They’re having to steal to have their own dignity.”

After Rochelle read the aforementioned article in January she decided action had to be taken. “At that time I had a business so [co-founder of Share The Dignity Heather and I] decided we could spread the word within the community and start to collect sanitary items”. Rochelle and Heather didn’t just raise awareness; their call to action was met with over 500 donations of sanitary products. Rochelle organised a Facebook page so people could keep track of where their donations were going and Share the Dignity’s online presence grew from there.

Share the Dignity distributed the donations throughout Brisbane to various charities and then sent the remaining donations to Vanuatu with Aid organisations, however, when Share the Dignity began receiving calls in the weeks after the donation deadline asking if they had more supplies “it was time to put the word out and do another collection,” says Rochelle.

According to the 2011 census of population and housing, Canberra has the second highest rate of homelessness in Australia and our population is 51% female, meaning that around half the city’s homeless are women.

Share the Dignity’s volunteers in Canberra are collecting until the end of August and all donations made in the ACT to these volunteers will be kept in the ACT, with the donations being divided between four Canberra women’s refuges and shelters.

Where to share the dignity

If you feel moved to donate to Share the Dignity, the next collection’s deadline is August 31 and the following businesses are collection points where you would drop off donations of sanitary items.



Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Moxom and Whitney


Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Online Editor involves eating, drinking and interviewing people - sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise, you’ll find her at the movies or ordering a cheese board. More about the Author

  • Diana Allen

    Where am I able to donate products in Newcastle nsw. Is there anything I can do to help here?