Some weeks, I struggle to read and watch the news.

It’s pretty heavy-going. Wars, tragedies, horrific acts of violence, abuse and so many people in need. I know that I can just turn it off and that in itself makes me very, very privileged. At the press of a button, I can bury my head in the sand. I can literally opt out of all the news I don’t want to hear to avoid the distress. It’s tempting; they do say that ignorance is bliss. I think it’s okay to take a little time out from things if you need to, but I know that it doesn’t actually help matters long-term. I want to be able to help but so many problems in the world leave me feeling powerless. And that is not a good feeling.

Being Able to Help.

When you find out that there is something you can help with, it gives you a little hope. And that’s exactly what I’ve found by coming into contact with Rochelle Courtenay. Words like “empowering” and “inspirational” are usually not in my vocabulary. I find that they are often over-used and wasted on people that aren’t worthy of them. In the case of Rochelle Courtenay, however, I have to make an exception because she is more than worthy. Here’s a woman who became aware of a problem and decided to do something about it. Not only did she do something about it, she’s made it easy for other people to get on board and help. Share the Dignity, the charity Rochelle has founded, allows us to help women in need. You can donate money, like any regular charity, but the point of difference with not-for-profit group Share the Dignity is that they also collect useful items. You can actually give someone exactly what they need.

Meet Rochelle Courtenay of Share the Dignity.

share the dignity founder rochelle courtenay

A little about Rochelle in her own words:

I come from a loving home with the most beautiful mother and father. We certainly didn’t have lots of money but my parents worked so hard to give us a roof over our heads and food on the table and we always felt loved.
Growing up, I had my older brother, younger sister and the absolute bestest of girlfriends. I am so lucky to have such amazing friendships. Along with my two beautiful daughters, my friends are truly my blessings. Having had Sharon, Jodie, Melissa and Kerrie as my besties for over 35 years, I know they are absolute angels. 35 years is a lot of unconditional love and laughter- friendship at it’s finest! (I’ll stop crying now!)

What inspired you to start Share the Dignity?

Early in 2015, an article by Mia Freedman published on Mamamia caught our attention. I was shocked to learn that in Australia many homeless women and women in domestic violence shelters had to face unthinkable indignities during their monthly period. For these vulnerable and at risk women, each month brought a shameful and traumatic experience. They were suffering indignities such as having to clean themselves in public toilets and use paper towels or newspaper to create makeshift sanitary pads. Reading it from the comfort of our homes, with the knowledge that many Australian women couldn’t take basic hygiene for granted during menstruation, we knew we couldn’t allow it to continue. We believe that sanitary items should be a right- NOT a privilege. In April and August, we now hold collections for sanitary items. Collection points around Australia help us in our mission to ensure every woman has dignity when dealing with her monthly period. We now have the extension of this with the much loved #itsinthebag Christmas appeal.


What are some of the ways people can help to Share the Dignity?

People can help us to Share the Dignity by donating in our April, August and It’s In The Bag collection campaigns. They are able to donate at participating locations. We collect all forms of sanitary items including; pads, tampons, incontinence pads, maternity pads, menstrual cups, and panty liners. For our It’s In The Bag campaign, we ask for people to donate their handbags they no longer use, filled with items such as pads, shampoo and anything in between. It’s all dependent on your imagination and your budget!

share the dignity

Share the Dignity ran the It’s In The Bag campaign last year. How many bags were donated?

share the dignity founder rochelle courtenayOur It’s In The Bag campaign is run annually to provide a gift for women at Christmas time. We collected an amazing 27,000 handbags during our 2015 collection drive. This year our goal is 50,000 gifts to give to those experiencing homelessness or finding themselves in a domestic violence refuge this Christmas.

“It’s In The Bag” invites people to grab a handbag, new or in good condition, and fill it with items to be gifted to a woman who might find herself in a shelter this Christmas. We know menstrual products are great but what else might be suitable to pop into a handbag?

Some ideas of things to put inside your handbags are; Pads, tampons, baby wipes, cleansing wipes, tissues, deodorants, perfume, soap, shampoo and conditioner, shampoo in a can (dry shampoo), toothpaste and toothbrush, hair ties and hair brush, sunscreen, movie voucher, gift voucher, meal voucher, poncho, scarf, jewellery or trinket, lotions, creams, card or note, book, socks and undies. We do however request that no food, sharps (for example razors, scissors knives) or pharmaceuticals (e.g. Panadol, Nurofen, condoms, etc.)- this is for the health and safety of both our volunteers and the women who will be receiving the bags.
share the dignity- its in the bag

How many goodies can you fit into one bag? #goals

This year,  I want to help Share the Dignity reach their goal of 50,000 handbags to gift to women who really need them. So, I’m throwing out a challenge to join me. Next week, I’ll be sharing what I’m filling my handbag with. Hit me up on Instagram or Facebook with a pic of your bag, ready to drop off at your nearest collection point! Don’t forget the hashtag- #itsinthebag 

 Collection point suburbs: Click here.

Donate to Share the Dignity: Click here.

 #IBOT @ Capturing Life.

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