People with Purpose: Enabling dignity for women and girls, month after month

Posted on 17 Jun 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Rochelle Courtenay resized

Empowering women to overcome period poverty and building worldwide menstrual equity is what drives Share the Dignity founder and CEO Rochelle Courtenay.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

Before starting Share the Dignity I was a personal trainer running my own business.

I was still doing my personal training and was essentially doing the work of two full-time jobs for a long time.

It was an absolute game-changer when I was able to step back from my business and put all my focus into Share the Dignity and ensure no woman, girl or person who menstruates has to go without the most basic of essentials.

How did you come to establish Share the Dignity?

I started Share the Dignity in 2015 after reading an article about homeless women having difficulty managing their period.

I couldn’t believe I had never thought or heard about it before.

Instead of thinking “Why is no one doing anything about this?” I decided to take action and thought, “What is stopping me from doing something?”

The first year I collected 450 period products and distributed them to local charities in my area. Unlike giving someone a warm coat, however, providing a period product once doesn’t fix the issue – it’s a monthly problem, and so Share the Dignity was born.

Rochelle resized 2
"I strongly believe in ensuring people have free and dignified access to period products."

What is Share the Dignity's primary purpose?

Our work helps ensure people can manage their period with dignity.

No one should have to use socks, newspaper, or wadded-up toilet paper for their period, and with the support of people across the nation, we are able to ensure less people have to.

I strongly believe in ensuring people have free and dignified access to period products.

Rochelle Courtenay
Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay.

What kind of a difference has Share the Dignity made to women's health?

From starting Share the Dignity I slowly learnt about the gravity of the period poverty situation and how it was affecting those fleeing domestic violence, struggling to make ends meet, our remote Indigenous communities and so many people Australia-wide.

More than 6,000 volunteers have now joined me to ensure menstrual equity for all, and thanks to their selflessness and generosity, we have been able to collect 4.75 million period products and more than 898,000 “It’s in the Bag” donations filled with essential items for the people we support.

I have heard some harrowing stories from people dealing with period poverty and I will not stop until menstrual inequity is rectified in Australia.

I am also really proud of the steps we have been able to take in the advocacy space. We were able to successfully advocate for every state and territory to provide period products to students in high schools, ensuring no girl need miss out on an education due to their period.

I am excited to continue our advocacy work and hope to see this extended to include primary schools as well.

Axe the Tax Photo
Share the Dignity played a crucial role in axing the tax on period products.

What are you most proud of with Share the Dignity?

A huge achievement was working collectively to axe the tax on period products.

For years people had been lobbying for change but this time around the roar was louder and finally our voices were heard.

Share the Dignity launched a petition which received more than 100,000 signatures and spearheaded the #axethetaxperiod hashtag.

We used our community’s voices nationally to lobby for equality through social media, resulting in a campaign the government couldn’t ignore.

On October 3, 2018, the fight was finally over. The bill was successful, and the tax was abolished by state and federal governments.

Finally, pads and tampons were no longer considered “luxury items.” The “tampon tax” was officially removed as of 1 January 2019.

Listen to Rochelle’s recently launched podcast, Another Bloody Podcast, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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