Share the Dignity, the national Not for Profit (NFP) which assists homeless women and those experiencing domestic violence, is calling Australians to donate essential hygiene items as part of 'It's in the Bag' Christmas donation drive.
Last year over 98,000 bags were dropped off at Bunnings stores across the country and donated to disadvantaged women. As the need grows for essential sanitary items, the charity is now striving to collect 120,000 bags from generous Australians.
Nearly 173,000 females across Australia sought help from homelessness services in 2017 – a number that has risen by 21 per cent over four years – with domestic and family violence identified as the main reason for seeking assistance*.
With drop-off points across all 290 Bunnings Warehouse stores across the country, it's easy for everyone to get involved and help those in need.
With the most ambitious target to date, Share the Dignity founder, Rochelle Courtenay, is depending on community kindness; "Christmas is such a special time, but we tend to forget there's many people who need our help. Donating a bag filled with hygienic essentials is a small but extremely impactful gesture that people can take part in", she said.
Finding food and a safe space to sleep are some of the many challenges homeless women face, but the lack of sanitary products is why Share the Dignity has been working to eliminate period poverty in Australia since 2015.
To get involved and help share the dignity this Christmas, visit your local Bunnings:
Drop Off Locations: All Bunnings Warehouse stores across Victoria
When: Friday 16th November to Sunday 2nd December 2018
For more information, head to the Share the Dignity website: sharethedignity.com.au/christmas-charity/
Question: What is Share the Dignity?
Rochelle Courtenay: Share the Dignity is a national not-for-profit charity providing women and teens across Australia who are homeless, at-risk, or experiencing domestic violence with essential sanitary items to help alleviate period poverty.
Question: What is the 'It's in the Bag' campaign?
Rochelle Courtenay: 'It's in the Bag' is our Christmas appeal launching on 16th November – we are urging people to donate a handbag filled with essential hygiene items and drop it at their local Bunnings store. The handbags will then be donated to vulnerable women and teens this Christmas.
Question: What products do you need donated for this campaign?
Rochelle Courtenay: We're asking for essentials sanitary items such as shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and deodorant. We know there is an overwhelming need for basic items which are often inaccessible for the women and teens we support.
Question: What inspired you to start Share the Dignity?
Rochelle Courtenay: In 2015 I read an article online about the 48,000 homeless women across Australia who didn't have access to things as basic as pads and tampons to manage their periods. These women were using toilet paper and rags to deal with their period and it broke my heart. I realised that this was something that had to change and rather than wait for someone else to take action, I decided to do something myself.
Question: Why did you partner with Bunnings for this appeal?
Rochelle Courtenay: Bunnings has always supported their local communities so working together on 'It's in the Bag' has been a natural fit. We have drop-off points across all 290 Bunnings stores and Trade Centres across the country, so it's easy for everyone to get involved and support the appeal. The teams are always so helpful when our 'sheroes' pick up the donated bags.
Question: Can you tell us about how you feel about the federal government finally removing the GST on sanitary items?
Rochelle Courtenay: I am absolutely elated! When you think of the hours and hours of effort that were put in by all of the people that fought against this tax over the past 18 years, it's an incredible effort. When our then prime minister, Malcom Turnbull, told me back in January that there had been no noise that he was aware of, it really riled me up, but I think we can safely say that he sure heard the noise after that!
Question: What's next for Share the Dignity?
Rochelle Courtenay: We have a very simple goal: to end period poverty in Australia. We're working very hard with our volunteers right across Australia to see this dream come true. In November, we are holding our Christmas Cocktail Parties in every capital city of Australia, to raise funds that can be used to install more of our world-first, Pink Box period vending machines in locations that can be easily accessed by women and girls who need them. So far, we have 90 of the vending machines in communities all around Australia, but with the poverty rate increasing and the number of women facing homelessness on the rise, we still need more. We have also partnered with Queensland University in a research project that is investigating the affect period poverty has on girls and education, and we hope the results of the study can help us to improve the outcomes for girls across the country.
Question: How can Australians support the 'It's in the Bag' campaign?
Rochelle Courtenay: Australian's can support by donating a handbag filled with essential sanitary items for vulnerable women and teenagers to their local Bunnings store or Trade Centre between November 16th and December 2nd.
Question: What do you hope to achieve from the 'It's in the Bag' campaign?
Rochelle Courtenay: Last year over 98,000 bags were dropped off at Bunnings stores across the country and donated to disadvantaged women across local communities. As the need grows for essential sanitary items, we are striving to collect 120,000 bags through the 'It's in the Bag' Christmas appeal.
Interview by Brooke Hunter