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Meet The Woman Ending Period Poverty

Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay on her mission to get menstrual products to everyone who needs them

By Felicity Robinson

When Rochelle Courtenay learned that thousands of Australian women struggled to afford period products, she hit upon a novel idea to help.

“At the time, I had my own business as a women’s personal trainer, so I challenged all my clients to buy a packet of tampons or pads for every glass of wine they drank that month,” she says, with a laugh. “I collected 450 packets – I’m pretty sure they didn’t drink that much, but it was a way to get them talking about the issue with their friends, which was what I wanted.”

With the donation of these packets to local women’s charities, Share the Dignity was born, growing over the past nine years to deliver over four million packets of period products to 3,500 charities all over Australia. They fulfil a huge, previously unmet need. “The charities always say they were the last items to be donated and the first to go,” says Rochelle.


I challenged all my clients to buy a packet of tampons or pads for every glass of wine they drank

This year, Share the Dignity is running its second Bloody Big Survey, which takes a snapshot of women’s experience of menstruation. The first survey, in 2021, attracted over 125,000 responses and helped drive the campaign to introduce free period products into secondary schools. For Rochelle, this is just the start.

“I want period products to be available for free in every university, TAFE, workplace and library in Australia. I want councils to care about menstrual equity and I want Australia to lead the world in this area.”

So what was the moment that changed everything for you?

A friend sent me an article about period poverty in Australia and I remember sitting on my veranda, reading it, and being so shocked that thousands of women, often homeless, were having to use socks and newspaper to deal with their period. It absolutely stopped me in my tracks. I’d always suffered from very heavy periods thanks to endometriosis, so periods had always been a nightmare for me. Later, I felt that was a blessing because it meant that story about period poverty really resonated.

I didn’t set out to start a charity, but when you read something like that, how can you not do something?

I was shocked that thousands of women, often homeless, were having to use socks and newspaper to deal with their period

What was the biggest challenge?

To be honest, it was finding the charities that needed period products and building our database to the size it is today. That was hard work.

For me personally, the more involved I became with Share the Dignity, the more money I let go of. Every time I attended a meeting, it meant I was missing out on training clients. There were times I had to say to my husband, ‘Can I borrow 50 bucks because I don’t have fuel for my car.’ And I knew the impact we could have made with Share the Dignity would have been so much greater if we’d had a team of staff. I’m so grateful we have that now.

When does it all feel worthwhile?

Volunteers and the charities we work with send me photos of the donations, and they really keep me going, particularly when I’m feeling tired. A volunteer during the floods in Lismore sent me a picture of a soldier with his arms completely full of U by Kotex products, delivering them to the charities that were trying to help. Another volunteer sent me a photo of two indigenous women laughing as they unpack a bag filled with toiletries. Their happiness is my why.

What do you do when you’re not running Share the Dignity?

I walk along Sandgate foreshore in Brisbane every single morning – walking is my jam. I love going to the gym, pottering in my yard. I have an 18-month-old granddaughter, Lola, and a three-year-old grandson called Levi, and getting my family altogether in one place, with the banter of conversation and love, is my favourite. Nothing makes me happier than that.

Finish this sentence: Nothing feels better than… Being around the people you love.


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The Moment That Changed Everything features women doing extraordinary things. They are the doers and dreamers; the ones who make our communities better, and who inspire us all.

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BY Felicity Robinson

Felicity is PRIMER's co-founder

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