Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Girls & Women

These Pink Vending Machines Dispense Free Tampons to Anyone Who Needs Them

Women can all relate to the wave of dread that rolls in when Aunt Flo comes to visit: the mood swings, aches, the stringent avoidance of the lighter side of our wardrobes, the last-minute rush to the sanitary aisle of our local supermarket.

While an uncomfortable time for most of us, for women experiencing homelessness, menstruation is much more than an inconvenience. With many women who are sleeping rough already lacking access to basic hygiene facilities, food, and shelter, it goes without saying that sanitary products are often an unaffordable luxury.

via GIPHY

In early 2015, horrified to hear of the indignities many homeless women were suffering while on their periods, Rochelle Courtenay, Brisbane-based personal trainer, asked herself, “What can I do?”

Rochelle began by asking clients to donate a packet of pads for every glass of wine they drank and then re-distributed the items to women in need in her community, according to Mamamia,

What began as a one-person project has now grown into Share the Dignity, a national organisation with over 1,100 volunteers. Its ‘sheroes’ and ‘heroes’ help run a variety of projects supporting women and children in need to access basic services and care. In particular, they work to support victims of domestic violence, partnering with organisations such as 1800Respect.

“On any given night, 1 in 200 people in Australia are homeless,” reports Homelessness Australia, and this number is only increasing. Of the 100,000 homeless counted in the 2011 census, 44% of these were women. There are a wide variety of reasons women experience homelessness, ranging from factors such as age, mental health or disability, to the impact of domestic violence.

The average cost of menstrual products is around $10 per month. This may not sound like much, but according to MamaMia, when you add on all the additional costs that come with having your period, such as pain medication, this can quickly add up into the thousands of dollars across the span of your menstrual life, $4,800 for tampons alone.

via GIPHY

While this would outrage most of us, the cost of having a period forces many homeless women to choose between spending their money on sanitary products or on basic necessities such as food.

One of Share the Dignity’s main projects is #DignityDrive, which involves collecting and distributing sanitary products for women in need around Australia. #DignityDrive collects twice annually, in April and August, and has a number of collection points around the country where you can donate up until 30April.

Items collected include pads, tampons, period-proof underwear, menstrual cups and a variety of other products so that the women supported can choose their preferred product. Supporters can also donate via the website.

Additionally, in 2017, Share the Dignity aims to install over 50 ‘#Pinkbox’ vending machines in a variety of locations around Australia. Each #Pinkbox will dispense a free ‘period pack’ every ten minutes to anyone who needs it, and each pack contains four tampons and two pads.

On May 28th, they’re also hosting a number of fundraising events around Australia, entitled ‘Share the DigniTEA’ in recognition of Menstrual Hygiene Day. These events will feature a high tea, guest speakers, entertainment and prizes to be won. Get in quick, because tickets are selling fast!

If you miss out, never fear, there will be more opportunities to support the cause. Later this year, the organisation will again be running its Christmas appeal, ‘#itsinthebag.’ The project calls for women to donate pre-loved handbags containing sanitary items as well as other products such as nail polish, shampoo or a kind note intended to make the recipient feel special.

‘Dignity bag’ recipients have only praise for the group:

One woman wrote: “The encouraging words touched my heart and, along with the gift itself, gave me a priceless and much needed sense that someone cares, and that, just maybe, there's hope after all. Dignity is exactly the right name for your bag, because it brings that in bundles, along with hope. Crisis can reach anyone at any time. I used to be a well paid professional and never dreamed my life would end up in this place. Having the basics to feel clean, cared for, and even touches of luxury ​these things all help me feel a little bit like I can find part of me again and the self worth that I've lost.”

So the next time your period rolls around, and you find yourself in the sanitary aisle, grab an extra pack for a woman in need and pay it forwards.