By Fiona Pepper
Old socks, clothes, newspaper and even dead leaves are some of the substitutes many of Australia’s 49,000 homeless women use to manage their period each month.
Giving these women access to free tampons was the motivation behind Gift Box, a new social enterprise launched in Melbourne by ex-Neighbours star Saskia Hampele this month.
A year ago Ms Hampele was asked to donate tampons as a part of a drive, and she did so readily — but also had her reservations.
“I thought it was crazy that the onus was put on women, as opposed to a structural thing that made sure there was enough product to go around,” Ms Hampele said.
It was then that she had the idea to start Gift Box, a tampon subscription service.
“The way it works is — as a woman I would buy a box of tampons and that purchase directly means that a box of tampons is donated to a woman in need,” she said.
Ms Hampele said the tampons donated are made from high-quality cotton.
“I choose organic and I don’t think other women should have to be putting chemicals into their bodies unless they really have to,” she said.
Reaching the women in need.
In order to distribute the tampons, Ms Hampele said she would rely on established charities throughout Australia who are already supporting the homeless.
That approach has been welcomed by Donna Stolzenberg, who runs the not-for-profit Melbourne Period Project, which donates sanitary items to women and trans men experiencing homelessness throughout Victoria.
She said Ms Hampele’s social enterprise would mean a guaranteed supply of tampons for her organisation.
“It’s a huge relief for us; as long as people are buying through them it means it’s a more consistent supply,” Ms Stolzenberg said.
How homeless women manage their periods.
Ms Stolzenberg said sufficiently managing menstruation was a major issue for many of the women experiencing homelessness throughout Australia.
Women often steal sanitary items or steal money to buy the items, she said, but in many instances, they resort to using substitute sanitary products.