What is Dignity?
Dignity is a social enterprise that provides free period products to all of those without access. It works through a buy one, give one partnership with businesses, and through our gifting initiatives available to the public. For every box of period products a business purchases, we give the equivalent away to those in need, and Individuals can also use our website to gift products.
Access to period products gives people in Aotearoa the opportunity to:
· Regularly attend education
· Regularly attend work
· Contribute to their community
· Free up finances for essential household items such as food
· Reduce the emotional burden and shame associated with their period
· Increase their self-esteem and confidence
· Normalise periods and talking about periods within their whānau and community
How did this all begin?
It was in 2016 that I first heard about Period Inequity. A news outlet ran a story on how school students were missing out on education because they had no access to period products.
My flatmate, Jacinta Gulasekharam, and I began to research this issue further. Once we started talking to people affected, it became apparent that it was a huge problem. The expense and stigma of periods didn’t just affect school students, but many other groups across the whole of Aotearoa too.
So, Jacinta and I founded Dignity. We were lucky to be given the opportunity to join the Victoria Entrepreneurial Bootcamp, which gave us the skills and resources to start a business. After around four or five months we eventually got our first customer, Flick Electric, and it went from there!
How has this grown since then?
Since launching, we have grown significantly. Around thirty other businesses including ANZ, Sharsies, Xero, NZ Post, and Cigna have signed up. Additionally, we launched our gifting initiative during lockdown which has allowed individuals and businesses to donate too. Together with these initiatives, we have provided free period products to more than 130 schools, youth organisations, and community organisations.
To date, we’ve gifted the equivalent of 30,040 boxes of period products to people without access in Aotearoa.
While this has been amazing, we still haven’t been able to reach everyone affected by period inequity. It became apparent that to achieve the scale required to solve this issue, serious investment would be necessary, so Dignity has also played a role in the advocacy space. Jacinta and The Positive Periods team started a petition that resulted in the government committing to provide period products to an estimated 20% of students.
This won’t resolve the issue completely, but it’s an amazing start.
Dignity has had an impact on over 35,000 lives, can you let us know how you have been able to accomplish this?
Through the collective support of many, many people. Dignity is not just Jacinta, Anika (General Manager), Sophie (Operations Manager), and I. The initiative would not exist if it weren’t for people in business signing this off, the Dignity team for putting in the mahi, advisors lending us a hand when we need it, the media for sharing the story, and our friends and family for supporting the movement to name a few. We have been incredibly lucky in the support we’ve received that has allowed us to get to where we are.
Any top highlights that stand out for you?
A few that come to mind are:
1 - The first time we received survey results from business and community groups showing us that people really valued having freely accessible period products. It was incredible to see something we had put together have a real impact.
2 - When we were able to hire our general manager, Anika. It was amazing to get to a point where we could employ someone and let it be its own thing.
What is your dream?
I want complete period equity in Aotearoa. No-one should miss out on opportunities simply because they have their period.
Starting something like this is by no means an easy task, how did you face the challenges to get to where you are today?
Not everything has gone perfectly, and I have faced a lot of stress during the more challenging times. Ensuring I have a fulfilling personal life is what helps me compartmentalise the challenges when they come up. I love Dignity and all that it has done for Aotearoa, but it is hard work. My friends and family are the ones who make my life great, and prioritising them has been so important to me.
We saw Dignity has partnered with some top businesses in NZ, how did this come about?
A lot of perseverance and a bit of luck! We make contact with companies we would love to work with, give them the business case, and go from there. As we continue to establish ourselves, we’ve seen a lot more businesses reach out to us too.
Any advice that you would give to someone starting out on their own venture?
Just get started! Don’t wait until the timing is ‘perfect’, because it never will be.
We were fresh out of university when we started Dignity and I think with that came some bravery and a little bit of naivety that actually worked in our favour. At the time, I don’t think I realised how likely it would have been for us to fail. The lack of that fear of failure meant I wasn’t limiting myself in a way that I potentially would now.
Edited by Kate Broadley: