FN Insider

Celebrating IWD – Rochelle Courtenay

7 March, 2018

Rochelle Courtenay

“Women's issues are society's issues. They don't just belong to women.”

Rochelle Courtenay - Founder, Share the Dignity

Queensland-based Rochelle Courtenay read an article almost 3 years ago that changed her path. Rochelle was floored to read that homeless women in Australia had zero access to sanitary items. She decided to change this. Starting with collecting sanitary items and distributing them in her community. Since this time, her actions have evolved into a nationwide charity, Share the Dignity, which distributes thousands of sanitary products to women in need across the country.

Why did you start Share the Dignity?

I read an article on Mamma Mia about how hard it is for homeless women to manage their periods. I was horrified, it was something I’d never even thought about. I took managing my period for granted, and just assumed others did. My first thought was someone should do something about this. Then I realised that someone was me.

You see confronting issues of homelessness and domestic violence in doing your work. How do remain positive and focused on your mission?

I stay positive and focused my mission because the reasons behind why I do what I do is so very important. Access to sanitary items should be a right not a privilege.

How do you measure the impact of your work with Share the Dignity?

The impact of the work by Share the Dignity is measured by meeting the charity needs of those helping girls and women around Australia. The over 20% increase in women and girls needing help last year is seeing us with a challenge to continue to help end period poverty in Australia.

Your work with Share the Dignity is diverse and you help women in a variety of different ways. What big project are you working on in 2018?

My big project for 2018 is to abolish the tampon tax and for women’s sanitary items to not be classed as a “luxury”. Our politicians and our society have to engage in a dialogue about women and our needs. The abolition of this tax will make a huge difference in the lives of women and girls across the nation. #axethetaxperiod. By funding more Dignity Vending machines and making them available to girls and women in need, we give them dignity, we will see a further decrease in work and school absenteeism, we will provide a basic, fundamental human right and give women their freedom back. Sanitary items should be a right not a privilege.

 

What guides you on a daily basis?
On a daily basis I am guided by the work that’s needed to be done here in Australia to ensure that no women or girl is having to go without the basic necessities.

What is your personal mantra?

Kindness if free, so sprinkle that stuff everywhere.

When have you felt the most confident?

I feel my most confident when I am surrounded by a tribe of women all working for the same goal, and we all know we have each other’s backs.

What have you learnt from other women in your life?

The women that I have been so lucky to have been surrounded with my entire life demonstrate kindness, intelligence, compassion and drive and for those friendships I am eternally grateful.

What do you hope for the girls of the future?

My hope for girls of future are that they are able to do anything that they want.

Rochelle Wears