Meet the Woman Ending Period Poverty



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.”

“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.”

– Rochelle Courtenay, founder

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?

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.

Improve your inbox.  Sign up to our free  weekly newsletter.


Would You Pay $100 For A Face Massage?


Yes, You Really Should Be Using Acids For Your Skin


“Should I Have Kids?” One Woman On The Mother Of All Questions


Want more stories?