Combatting period poverty

Published Mar 20, 2020

Let’s face it, being a woman is an expensive endeavour.  Sanitary products alone can cost a woman up to $15,000 over her lifetime. What happens when these products are just too unaffordable for some? For one, girls might miss out on attending school some days every month simply because they cannot afford the cost of sanitary products. Not only does this negatively impact that child’s education, but not having one’s basic needs met can seriously change the way a girl, or woman, sees herself and her self-worth.

The issue, which has been called “period poverty”, has been getting a lot of attention internationally. During Victoria’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp in 2016, run by Wellington UniVentures, the idea for a social enterprise called Dignity was launched as a way to combat this issue here in New Zealand. Dignity uses the Buy One Give One business model. They sell subscriptions of environmentally-friendly sanitary items to businesses throughout New Zealand. Dignity will then donate the same items to schools, pack for pack, so girls will always have products available to them at no cost, and not miss valuable class time.

Over the past several years, director Jacinta Gulasekharam and co-director Miranda Hitchings have developed their Bootcamp idea into a successful business. Dignity has partnered with many major companies around New Zealand including ANZ, New Zealand Post, and Weta Workshop. They have given away over 23,000 boxes of sanitary products to schools, youth organisations, and women’s support services. As Dignity is dedicated to keeping girls in the classroom, they have tracked the absentee level from the schools which receive these donations. Seventy-two percent have reported a decrease in missed class time due to periods, showing how effective this project has become.

Dignity has grown steadily, and the organisation would like to maintain this upward trend in regards to increasing its number of partners. This would allow for the business to expand its beneficiary base to include even more schools, family planning centres, and other organisations that support women, making sure anyone in need gets access to these products.

While looking out for women is the main goal here, this does not need to have a heavy cost on the planet. Dignity did not want to supply a product that wasn’t well-sourced or would sit in our landfills for hundreds of years. That’s why they teamed with Oi who makes organic cotton products that biodegrade within five years.

If you would like to help women and girls in need, as well as providing earth-friendly products to your own colleagues, sign your workplace up at Dignitynz.com. This is a step in the right direction towards period equality, allowing women to live with the dignity they so rightly deserve.