The movement, which was launched in 2014, attempts to not only highlight the importance for people to be able to hygienically manage their menstruation – in privacy, safely and with dignity, but advocate for the removal of the taboo and stigma associated with menstruation. The message of the movement is clear – no menstruating person should be disadvantaged and without access to appropriate menstrual hygiene management opportunities due to culture, socio-economics, or education.
Yet the reality is grim. Despite being a normal and natural biological process menstruation is shrouded in shame in many parts of the world. Some communities consider a menstruating woman impure; women and girls are sent out of the home for the duration of their cycle and restricted from bathing or touching family members. Other communities believe that a menstruating woman will bring her family ill health or bad luck.
In addition to this stigma, women frequently lack access to basic hygiene or privacy. Women in many rural areas are forced to use unsanitary materials such as rags, soil, ash, or cow dung because they do not have access to affordable, hygienic, and safe products and facilities.
But there is hope.
Share the Dignity, an Australian charity bringing dignity to women and girls experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, and period poverty through the distribution of period products, are leading the campaign Down Under, and have gathered the support of over 5,500 volunteers to collect more than 3 million donated period products in the past six years.
"We’ve come a long way in breaking the taboo around menstruation. The period product industry has changed significantly in recent years, shifting from what was previously a monopolised market to a bustling marketplace of new brands and eco-friendly products, such as period undies, menstrual cups, and organic pads and tampons," the charity said in a release.
"We’ve seen changes in how period products are marketed and advertised too. More and more brands are using bold language and honest imagery to normalise the experience of having and managing a period. This can be tracked back to Bodyform’s game-changing ‘Blood normal’ campaign in 2016/17, where they used a substance resembling period blood in period products, instead of the blue detergent usually favoured across the industry."
How you can support menstrual hygiene day
It may feel like an insurmountable issue to tackle, but we can all play a role in ending period poverty. Here are three ways you can support this Menstrual Hygiene Day, according to Share the Dignity.
1. Complete a bloody big survey
Share the Dignity is aiming to smash the record for the most data ever collected globally around periods through its Period Pride campaign. They are calling on all who menstruate to complete a bloody big survey, to gain insight into Australians’ experiences around menstruation, and to highlight common challenges that people face when it comes to periods.
The data will be used to lobby for governmental change, such as more school funding and support for those who menstruate. The charity has captured more than 25,700 responses so far and is aiming to reach at least 30,000 before the survey closes on 31 May. Initial findings show more than a third of respondents hide any sign they have their period, while a similar number have missed school or work because of their period. Your voice can affect systemic change.
2. Get your friends together
As if you need an excuse to get your friends together for an afternoon of fun, you can now feel even better about it. But we can’t promise you’ll feel as fresh the next day after hosting your own DigniTea event to raise funds, collect period products, and start a conversation around period poverty. Share the Dignity has created a toolkit of resources to make it super easy for you to host an event at home, work or within your local community. No matter how big or small your event might be, you can bring people together to help change the conversation.
3. Give up the gifts
What better gift could you ask for, than to give someone the gift of dignity? You can opt for a more lowkey birthday celebration this year and host a birthday fundraiser. Each donation that your family and friends make instead of giving a gift, will fund free period packs for Share the Dignity’s Dignity Vending Machines. These machines are installed in hospitals, schools, community centres and women’s refuge centres across Australia, providing free period products to the most vulnerable people in our communities. This selfless choice can make a real, on the ground difference to those experiencing period poverty. Give us that over another candle any day.
Who are the companies supporting period poverty?
Making change with your wallet is absolutely one way to get involved. These are the brands worth investing in.
In support of Menstrual Health Day 2021, period underwear brand Modibodi will be launching an ‘End Period Poverty’ activation from Friday 28th - Sunday 30th May in Darlinghurst, to alert people of the lack of access and unsafe conditions people experiencing period poverty face when trying to manage their period with the hope of inspiring actionable change. The activation features an installation, which is a bold and shocking representation of the struggle people experiencing period poverty face, month after month, when they don’t have access to products or face physical or emotional shame leading to a lack of dignity in trying to manage their period.
The Body Shop
To help ensure all menstruating persons under the age of 25 in Australia and New Zealand know about sustainable period product options, The Body Shop has teamed up with Sustainable Period Project, donating $5* from every ‘It’s Bloody Natural’ tote bag and Period Pouch sold, up to $30,000, to provide free sustainable period education kits to Primary Schools in Australia.
Available to purchase now, The Body Shop’s “Its Bloody Natural’ products also aim to dispel the stigma around menstruation, whilst the period pouch includes goodies for the ultimate self-care routine, for any time of the month.
Marking the brands next step as a Champion of Change business, Lovekins has partnered with Share the Dignity to help end period poverty in Australia - by matching every dollar spent on all purchases of sanitary pads from the Lovekins website this month with a donation to Share the Dignity, to support women and girls in need.
A dignity vending machine that dispenses free sanitary products will be placed within a disadvantaged community in Australia once Lovekins reaches $10,000 in donations, to continue to ensure accessibility to pads and tampons to those in need.
Additionally, Lovekins will be giving away 100 packs of sanitary pads to schools in each state of Australia via a campaign on social media in the hope to reduce the number of girls missing their education due to lack of period care resources.
“When we work together, we amplify our voices to make a difference for those in need. I’m excited to work together to ensure that every woman, every girl, everywhere has access to period products to manage their period with the dignity they deserve.” says Founder and Managing Director of Share the Dignity, Rochelle Courtenay.
Distributors of Menstrual cup company Lunette in Australia and NZ have created The Sustainable Period Project - a world-first initiative to educate students on sustainable period practice.
The Sustainable Period Project distributed a resource kit to all Australian and New Zealand high schools as at the start of this school year, containing samples from collaborating companies including biodegradable disposable pads, reusable pads, reusable cloth pads, menstrual cups, period underwear, videos and activities that can be used for classroom education for years to come.
The kit is designed to be used as part of a larger lesson, or form the whole lesson itself for years 9 to 13.
“We alone cannot change peoples’ attitudes, ideas and education about sanitary options, but in collaboration with other sustainable menstrual companies, teachers, health workers and period positivity, we can all make an epic dent in our war on waste in an increasingly sustainable world.”
“We wanted to start something big that no-one had tried before – and the Sustainable Period Project was born,” Says Morris.
“With the zero waste movement rapidly gaining momentum in our younger generation, it’s important that we continue to empower students at grassroots level to decide on and examine sanitary alternatives that have important health, cost and environmental impacts on the future of our beautiful country,” Morris adds.
U by Kotex
Kimberly-Clark and U by Kotex are aiming to educate five million people across Australia and New Zealand to fight menstrual stigma, as well as alleviate period poverty for 500,000 people by 2030. They are doing this through the U by Kotex “What’s Happening to You” menstrual education program, which has already been completed by one million students.
Kimberly-Clark also supports Share the Dignity and Plan International in Australia - the charity for girls’ equality - to address period poverty and stigma; and to help create a world where periods do not hold people back from reaching their full potential. For the the first 10,000 responses to Share The Dignity's Bloody Big Survey U by Kotex will donate 10,000 packs of pads for people in need. Read more here.
Australia’s leading undie subscription brand, Knobby, has made a donation of more than $45,000 worth of much needed women’s undies to national charity organisation, Share the Dignity, who help women and girls across Australia experiencing the impacts of period poverty.
“Far too many women across Australia sacrifice purchasing essential period products because they can’t afford them and are forced to make the choice of putting a meal on the table for their children or purchasing items they need to manage their period,” Share the Dignity Founder, Rochelle Courtenay said. “We are very grateful to have Knobby support us with this generous donation and look forward to getting these undies into the hands of women, some of whom don’t even have underwear to place a pad on.”