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Dignity milestone achieved for second birthday

Wellington startup Dignity NZ celebrates its second birthday tonight, and reached another impressive milestone this week, with 10,000 pads and tampons donated to school girls around the country.

The Dignity NZ team, from left: co-founder Miranda Hitchings, Hester Reich, co-founder Jacinta Gulasekharam, and Sophie MacDonald.

Wellington entrepreneurs Jacinta Gulasekharam and Miranda Hitchings founded the business two years ago today, when they were 21-year-old students at Victoria University, with the goal of ending period poverty in New Zealand high schools.

“Period sanitary products cost women an average of $15,000 throughout their lives,” says Hitchings.

“The cost for many high school students or their families is simply too much of a burden and that means many girls aren’t getting the sanitary products they need. Some even have to resort to using toilet paper.

“That can lead to traumatic experiences, social anxiety, and in some cases, it can lead to girls skipping school altogether.”

The Dignity model is simple: businesses such as ANZ, Xero, and Flick Electric buy organic tampons and pads for their female staff and for every box bought, Dignity donates one to a school for girls in need.

It now provides period products to girls across 50 schools throughout New Zealand and delivered its 10,000th box to Kaitaia College this week.

“We’re on a mission to make period sanitary products completely free for every woman in New Zealand,” Gulasekharam says.

“Eventually, we’d like to have a model in which all working women have their sanitary products paid for by their employer, and in turn, all high school girls throughout New Zealand have theirs donated to them.

“It’s a one-for-one business model which could eradicate period poverty in New Zealand.”

At the school level, the tampons and pads are made available to the girls who need them in a discreet way such as at reception or with the school nurse.

“This is a wonderful initiative which is making our girls feel more feminine, cleaner, and well-cared for,” a school nurse at Papakura High School says.

“We would have at least 60 girls using them now instead of toilet paper.”

“For too long, period health has been a taboo subject even though this is a health issue which half the population goes through,” Gulasekharam says.

“Dignity is putting an end to the taboo and the harm that period poverty is causing throughout our country. We’re 10,000 boxes in, but we’re just getting started.”