Share the Dignity is a charity organisation focused solely on providing sanitary needs for both homeless women and women in remote or low-income areas. Cotton On Body donated 200 pairs of underwear as part of their August #DignityDrive campaign, and got to know Rochelle Courtenay the inspiring program founder.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN ONE SENTENCE…
“I am the mother of two beautiful daughters, a daughter, a partner, a friend and now the “pad lady” a title that I am proud to wear after the collection of over 750,000 packets of pads and tampons across Australia.”
ANY KEY MENTORS OR PEOPLE WHO DEEPLY INFLUENCED WHO YOU ARE?
“This question makes me smile as I reflect on my TRIBE of girlfriends, these girlfriends I met as we all walked into the gates of high school some 35 years ago, I am truly blessed to have such unconditional love and support from my girlfriends and those relationships with them have molded who I am today.”
ANY LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCES, IF SO WHAT WERE THEY?
“My biggest life changing experience has to be having my first baby girl, the love you feel when you hold that divine creature in your arms cannot be measured. But my second by far was sitting on my verandah in Shorncliffe reading about how homeless women were going without basic sanitary items during their menstrual cycle, I decided the question was not “Why is nobody doing anything”, but rather, “What’s stopping me from doing something?”
In March 2015, I took matters into my own hands, collecting sanitary items within my local community and distributing to local shelters. From a simple idea of giving dignity to women, Share the Dignity has grown into a national charity, with over 1500 volunteers Australia wide, and multiple initiatives aimed at giving dignity to women.”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?
“My WHY motivates me, the girls and women we help, FULL STOP.”
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF YOUR JOB?
“Witnessing the difference Share the Dignity makes to the lives of women and children in need. Their stories bring me to tears and drive me to continue to strive for dignity for all. If I can sneak in a second one it would have to be the women and people I have met from our 1500 Volunteers we like to call ‘Sheros’. They rock, they selflessly help to Share the Dignity and I have so many new treasured friendships through the program.”
TELL US ABOUT THE SHARE THE DIGNITY PROGRAM…
“In April and August, we hold our #DignityDrive for sanitary items. Collection points around Australia help us in our mission to ensure every woman has dignity when dealing with her monthly period. Every single packet makes a difference to somebody.
In November, we hold our #itsinthebag Xmas appeal where we ask women to fill a preloved handbag with life’s necessities like pads, tampons, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush you are really only limited by your imagination, bag size and budget. We then pass these Christmas gifts on to homeless shelters, domestic violence refuges, drought stricken farming communities, mental health and those in need.
We also hold several events throughout the year starting with our DigniTEA in May, Yoga4Dignity in September and #istandup in October.
Funds and products raised go towards our projects supporting women in need, providing dignity when dealing with their monthly period and funding projects such as our #Pinkbox Dignity Vending Machines, Because We Care and Activities4All.”
HOW LONG HAS THE PROGRAM BEEN RUNNING FOR AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO COME UP WITH IT?
“#DignityDrive first began in March 2015 after reading an article by Mia Freedman published on Mamamia. We were shocked to learn that in Australia, many homeless women and women in domestic violence shelters had to face unthinkable indignities during their monthly period.
For these vulnerable and at-risk women, each month brought a shameful and traumatic experience, suffering indignities such as having to clean themselves in public toilets and use paper towels or newspaper to create makeshift sanitary pads. Reading it from the comfort of our homes, with the knowledge that many Australian women couldn’t take hygiene for granted during menstruation, we knew we couldn’t allow it to continue.”
HOW DO THE WOMEN REACT WHEN YOU DELIVER THE PACKS?
“Some of the stories shared with me just break my heart. To hear how tough women are doing it and the difference a pack of tampons or a Handbag with Heart can make – it’s all the incentive I need to know I’m doing the right thing.”
WHY IS THIS CAUSE SO CLOSE TO YOUR HEART?
“You know I just couldn’t imagine being homeless, but homeless without pads and tampons when you have your period! That’s just a human right to have access to sanitary items, RIGHT?”
HOW CAN OTHERS GET INVOLVED?
“Donating is the easiest way to get involved, by popping an extra packet of pads and tampons in your trolley every week and putting your donation in our collection boxes. Forgo one coffee a week and arrange a $5 donation to us to help stock our dignity vending machines.
Or volunteer – please head to our website and you will find our registration form. If you have any questions for us, please send us a message via the ‘message us’ feature on our app, or by the ‘contact us’ page on our website.
Or use your voice, have a conversation about Share the Dignity today that is the most powerful way to make a difference to girls and women in need.”
Click here to find out more about Share The Dignity and get involved.