Most Australian women can be certain of three things in their life – death, taxes and getting their period.
It’s not glamorous but it happens and there’s not much we can do about it. Most women will bleed for 3-7 days every month. Most women can manage this and are able to buy pads, tampons or menstrual cups. I remember as a teenager it was my mortal fear that I would get my period unexpectedly at school. I really couldn’t fathom anything more embarrassing.
What if you were homeless though? What if you were living below the poverty line? What if you have been forced into emergency accommodation with your kids because of domestic violence?
All of a sudden you have to make choices between buying tampons and buying food for your family, or paying the rent or electricity bill or getting medication. It’s a heart breaking and non-dignified scenario to say the least.
Thankfully in February last year, Share the Dignity was established. Share the Dignity’s primary goal is to provide women in vulnerable situations with sanitary products to help them maintain their dignity and remove the stress of having to make choices between tampons or living.
I caught up with Rochelle Courtenay from Share the Diginity last month and was floored with some of the stats and stories she shared with me.
Share the Dignity received 450 packs of tampons and pads donated in their first collection drive. At the time they were happy with this but wanted to the charity to grow. And grow they did after the The Project ran a story on their efforts in August 2015. Donations went coco-bananas with 150,000 packs donated in that collection drive.
Share the Dignity collect donations in April and August each year. This April they received more than 100,000 donations. You can visit their website during those months to find out where your local collection point is. I was surprised when I found out that they only collect twice a year but Rochelle pointed out that they are 100% womaned by volunteers.
“The demand exists – all of the products donated get used by women in need. I’ve had to knock back a big chain of day care centres simply because the logistics of collecting the donations could not be met.”
In addition to doing the tampon and pad collections, prior to Christmas Share the Dignity run the “It’s In The Bag” campaign. The idea is that we all have an old handbag at home, which is still in good condition but we aren’t going to use again. You pop some essential items into said bag (tampons, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, tea, hand cream, undies, whatever) and drop it off at a collection point to be given to a woman in emergency housing for Christmas.
“Many of the women who received a bag last year had never received a present. Some hadn’t experienced such kindness for many years.” Rochelle told me this and I welled up.
In addition to these campaigns, Share the Dignity has been lobbying the folks in Canberra to stop the tampon tax. They currently have a petition on change.org that still needed about 1800 signatures to reach the desired 5000 the last time I checked.
Not sure if you realise, but back in 2000 when the GST was introduced, some bright spark decided that menstrual hygiene products are apparently luxury items and should have the 10% tax applied to them. Condoms and nicotine replacement products however are necessities and exempt from the GST. Call me facetious and cynical but I’m wondering if it was a man who was trying to quit smoking that made the final call on this decision. Hmmm….
If you want to support the petition head over here and click away. Or better yet email your local federal member (and candidates seeing as we are in the midst of an election) and tell him or her that the tampon tax is ridiculous. Here’s a template I prepared earlier and sent to my local member, Ross Vasta, if you want to use it. Don’t know who your local member is? All good, you can search for them here.
Dear <<insert federal members name>>,
My name is <<insert your name>> and I live in your electorate.
I get my period and I have to buy sanitary products. Do you realise that sanitary products are taxed under the GST? I think this is a bit nuts because they aren’t luxury items. I don’t have a choice when it comes to getting my period.
I would really appreciate your thoughts on the tampon tax. Also, how do you think it would go if we all stopped using these luxury items? Might get a bit awkward right?
I look forward to receiving your reply.
<<insert your name>>
Considering tampons only contribute about 0.03% to the overall GST collected I really think the Australian Government could show the community that women are actually valued members of our society and remove the tax.
If this has inspired you to keep up to date with what Share the Dignity are doing and helping out then make sure you like their Facebook page or Instagram.
I’ve been rather inspired by the work of Share the Dignity and I am doing the following to help the sisters who are struggling out:
- Signed the change.org petition.
- Emailed my local federal member (and candidates come 14 June 2016 when they are confirmed).
- Attended a Share the Dignity High Tea on World Menstral Hygiene Day (28 May).
- I plan to organise a Tampon & Tacos (no pun intended!) night for my birthday in August and ask friends to bring a donation of tampons rather than a gift.
- Put my name down to help collect donations in August.
- Start buying a few essential things each fortnight to fill a couple of good old handbags I have for It’s In The Bag in the lead up to Christmas.