health

Aussie girls are missing school because they can't afford pads and tampons.

Just over a year ago, Rochelle Courtenay read that homeless women weren’t able to afford pads and tampons, and were using rolled-up toilet paper and newspaper instead.

Shocked at the thought that this was happening in Australia, she founded the charity Share The Dignity to do something about the problem. But in the past year, she’s learnt how big the problem really is. It’s not just homeless women who can’t afford sanitary items. It’s women living on drought-affected farms, who are cutting up old towels to make their own pads. It’s also teenage girls from poverty-stricken families.

“They weren’t going to school,” Courtenay, herself a mum to two teenage girls, tells The Motherish. “We’re hearing that in so many areas, and that, to me, is criminal. There’s too much value in educating girls.”

Share The Dignity has grown rapidly from its small beginnings. Courtenay held her first collection in her neighbourhood early last year and ended up with 450 packets of pads.

“We were high-fiving ourselves all over the place,” she remembers. “They were gone in a heartbeat, obviously.”

It's all about giving dignity to other women. Photo via Facebook.

A second collection in the middle of last year saw a massive 150,000 packets of pads and tampons being stockpiled. But by the end of November, they'd all been used up.

Courtenay has seen firsthand how much pads and tampons can mean to women who can't afford them. She remembers meeting a homeless woman, fleeing domestic violence with her two children, who had only one tampon for her next period. She'd found it on the toilet floor of a surf club.

Courtenay was able to offer her packets of sanitary items.

"She was hysterically crying because she could take whatever she wanted," she remembers. "Now that’s pretty sad when pads and tampons make you that emotional."

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Courtenay says frontline homelessness workers sometimes buy sanitary items with their own money, to give to women who ask for them.

"They don’t get paid much, but they’re so kind. They shouldn’t have to put their hands in their pockets."

This month, women are donating pads and tampons to other women. Photo via Facebook.

Courtenay wants pads and tampons freely available through homelessness services, and through services that work with poverty-stricken families.

"We’re trying to make sure that the schools in those areas are stocked with them as well," she adds.

From personal experience, Courtenay understands that some women have an even more urgent need for sanitary products.

"I had endometriosis, so I couldn’t even imagine not having had a pad and a tampon and seven pairs of undies ready to go in a day. I couldn't imagine having dealt with that and being homeless. And one in 10 women suffer from endometriosis."

Share The Dignity is holding another collection throughout April. This time, the target is 500,000 packets of sanitary items.

Courtenay says that as soon as women hear about the charity, they want to help.

"There’s not a woman in Australia who wouldn’t go, 'Oh my God, I can give up a coffee this month, buy a packet of pads and put it in a box.'"

Pads and tampons can be dropped into collection boxes at Terry White Chemists, Brazilian Beauty, Fernwood Fitness and other locations. For a full list, go to http://www.sharethedignity.com.au/.

Are you planning to donate in April?

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