Social enterprise delivers free tampons to teenagers

by Anusha Bradley / 04 July, 2017
Company co-founders Jacinta Gulasekharam, left, and Miranda Hitchings.
A Wellington high school has started receiving free sanitary products thanks to two young social entrepreneurs.

For every box of tampons bought by companies through a monthly subscription service, the social enterprise Dignity will give a box to a school in need.

Xero and Flick Electric are the first to sign up, providing one school with free products from The Organic Initiative, a New Zealand-based sanitary product company.

Another two schools will start receiving supplies soon.

Co-founders Miranda Hitchings, 22, and Jacinta Gulasekharam, 21, came up with the idea in November after attending an entrepreneurs boot camp at Victoria University.

After struggling with the high cost of tampons themselves they were inspired by other social enterprise models and reports that other girls were not going to school when they had their period, simply because they couldn't afford to buy sanitary products.

"It resonated with so many people, I really wanted to do something about it," said Jacinta.

"And Miranda and I talked so much about the cost of sanitary items, and we didn't have much to do over summer, so we applied for the Victoria University entrepreneurial boot camp and made up Dignity, and made it our mission to make sanitary items affordable and accessible for all New Zealand women."

Xero head of HR Linda Bateson said it was an easy way to give something back to the community.

"Particularly when you look at the fact that there are lots of girls not going to school because they've got their period, can't afford sanitary items and are missing out on that vital education.

"That's a big thing that we're trying to advocate for - females getting into STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths], ultimately getting into tech. And this is kind of something we could do at that grassroots level to support girls."

'It's just like any other office consumable'

Flick Electric general counsel Nikki Bloomfield said providing free sanitary products had made the lives of some of its female employees "just a little bit easier".

All its staff supported the idea, she said.

"It sounds like something that you should feel really awkward about. But actually as soon as you just kind of think about what we're actually providing it's just like any other office consumable."

Ms Hitchings said the reaction from prospective clients was mixed but she believed every conversation it had with businesses helped break down the taboo surrounding periods.

"Some people have been a bit cautious about talking about it, and because me and Jacinta talk about periods all day long we forget there's this taboo. But once we talk more about with businesses they become more open to the idea, so it's really really cool."

Another Wellington-based organic tampon company Change To Green is doing a similar thing. For every box it sells it gives away a box to a charity supplying sanitary products to homeless women.

This story was first published on the RNZ website. 

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