Homelessness is a rapidly growing issue in Australia and I was horrified to learn that the highest growth cohort is women over 50!
Can you imagine that? At a time of our lives when we are looking forward to living life a bit more on our own terms, to suddenly find oneself homeless due to perhaps the loss of a job, a mental health issue or the break-up of a relationship. And what if you are still caring for children but forced to sleep in a car or even worse to sleep on the streets. You can read some of those stories in this article.
In that situation, you will consider yourself lucky to keep safe and to have food to eat. What if you need sanitary items? Grim as it might sound, many women rely on newspaper for their personal hygiene items. The cost of pads and tampons is just not within their budget.
Share the Dignity is a National Registered Charity focussed on literally providing dignity by giving these women access to such basic items. [Editor’s note, this is not a sponsored post, we believe strongly that all women should have access to sanitary care items. We will be asking you to consider assisting Share the Dignity, but we have not been paid to do so, this is our way of giving back].
One of the campaigns run by Share the Dignity is “#itsinthebag”. This campaign runs leading up to Christmas and asks Australians to donate a handbag they no longer used, fill it with items that would make a woman feel special and even pop a thoughtful note into the bag to show her that someone cares and that she matters.
Over 106,000 Handbags filled with goodies were donated over Christmas 2016 and they all found homes, helping women in need, women in homeless shelters, domestic violence refuges, mental health sufferers, young girls (13 to 16) in youth homeless shelters and foster care, drought stricken farming women and our older population of poverty stricken women. Here’s a story from one volunteer:
“ As I completed another couple [sic] drop off to a charity yesterday, it hit me the hardest and I cried so much that I had to pull over in my car and have a cry. I met a 25 year old mother of one. She was out the front of the building after finishing with her appointment. Purely by accident a packet of pads fell out of the bag (small bag but was loaded with goodies). I smiled awkwardly at her. She came up to me. “Those pads, are they for anyone? “
“They are gorgeous bags put together to help ladies who need help”
She apologised to me. It was then I realised, she wasn’t after the bag, she wanted the packet of pads.
I walked up to her and asked “Do you need some pads?”
She became embarrassed and nodded. I grabbed a bag, a couple extra pack of pads from the large filled bag on my backseat and gave it to her. I asked her if she had any clean underwear and she shook her head ‘no’. I told her to go into the Big W bag on my front seat and see if the underwear that I brought from the shed fitted her.
She found a 3pack and took one pair. I told her she could have all 3 if they were the right size.
With help from a support worker, I finished unloading my car and went to leave. This lady yelled ‘stop’ and as I turned around to her, she gave me the biggest smile and hug that I have ever received.”
Due to the positive impact of ‘#itsinthe bag’ and the growing need, Share the Dignity has created Handbags with Heart. Handbags with Heart is about your purchasing a handbag in Australia that you can look into and know you are helping a woman in need. The aim is that sales of those bags will in 2017 raise $400,000 to fund the 50 Vending Machines that will dispense period packs to women in need across Australia. Those period packs will provide sanitary items for free and will be in locations such as McDonald’s, public libraries, shelters etc. The first vending machines are now being rolled out and there is a need for funding for more, plus covering the cost of restocking the machines.
There are two different bags available for purchase, the Jane and the Paula. You can read more about these bags and purchase them from Share the Dignity
As well as (or instead of) buying one of these bags, you can support Share the Dignity and have a little fun at the same time. Each year there are Share the DigniTEA events nationally.
Don’t delay booking for the high tea events, they quickly sell out so get your friends organised and hop online as soon as they go on sale. Find your closest event and purchase your tickets here. It’s sure to be a fun day out and supports such a worthy cause. Maybe I will see you at one next year.
Were you aware of Share the Dignity? Have you participated in the #itsinthebag campaign? Are you as horrified as I am by the number of homeless women in Australia?