'Don't want this to be an issue anymore' – Two women begin sanitary product supply business to help teens in need

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It was out of a student flat in Wellington that a business which sees companies supply sanitary products for female employees while donating sanitary items to schools was born.

Out of a Wellington flat, a small sanitary product supply business was formed by two students.
Source: 1 NEWS

Dignity, a social enterprise that uses a buy-one-give-one model, was the brainchild of Victoria University students Miranda Hitchings, 22, and Jacinta Gulasekharam, 21.

Struggling to afford sanitary items as students, the pair came up with the scheme while at a boot camp for entrepreneurs this past summer.

"Miranda and I moved in together last year and we were flatting and found [sanitary items] really expensive and it was hard as a student to afford these," says Jacinta.

"Through that boot camp and customer discovery and looking at different business models we came up with what we have today."

The idea was simple - for every sanitary product bought one would be donated to a school in need.

With the partnership of environmentally-friendly sanitary product company The Organic Initiative and with Flick Electric and Xero on board as their first clients, and the pair's sanitary supply business was launched.

"It's been super cool that businesses have been on board with that, but that they also want to show their staff that they care about their needs and that they're open enough to talk about sanitary items at work," says Miranda.

HELPING FEMALE EMPLOYEES

Fick Electric's Nikki Bloomfield says helping their female employees was the main reason they choose Dignity.

"It has had a great response from the team here at Flick – the women have seen it as a really helpful service.

"And right across the team it is viewed as a really positive way to demonstrate we are a diverse and inclusive workplace."

Dignity has donated 110 boxes so far to two schools in Wellington and South Auckland.

For privacy reasons the schools have asked not to be named, but the principal of the Wellington school receiving the donations says the sanitary items are a great support for their female students.

"The tampons and pads that Dignity donates for our students are greatly appreciated by girls whose families struggle to buy everything they need. It is great for the school to be able to support our students and free them to concentrate on their education."

For Jacinta and Miranda learning about young women struggling to attend school due to lack of sanitary products has been an emotional education.

"It's just horrific," says Miranda.

"The girls come to school and get their periods and the nurse has to take it on herself to drive them home to have showers and then they may or may not come back."

Dignity isn't the only initiative supporting lower income women with sanitary products.

MAKING PEOPLE'S LIVES BETTER

KidsCan and the Salvation Army's Food Project also donate tampons and pads to women in need.

The Salvation Army's Women's Hygiene Bundle has already donated 15,797 items valued just over $56,000 since June 2016.

"I think we're all part of doing the same mission which is making people's lives better," says Jacinta.

"We would really hope that all women have access to sanitary items. That’s the overall goal. We don't want this to be an issue anymore," Miranda says.

Jacinta says they hope more businesses will jump on board their scheme and supply sanitary products to their female employees.

"They are a basic need and we would love to see all these boxes in businesses and all school girls not feeling like 'Oh man I've been caught short again' but 'oh no my school has these'.

"We want to normalise sanitary access."

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