/* JS Scrypt - Carousel (This carousel script must be at the start of the document, before the styling) */ /* JS Script - Modal */
Want Kea to share your story?

Dignity is a budding initiative which aims to provide sanitary items for all women in New Zealand. Miranda Hitchings and Jacinta Gulasekharam began Dignity as a way to counter period poverty, using a buy one, give one approach, and engaging with individuals and corporate to provide sanitary items to schools in Aotearoa. We spoke to Miranda about Dignity's journey and what's next for them.

Dignity artwork

Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I grew up down south in Otautahi, and was drawn into impact work after the earthquakes happened. I was 15 at the time, and unable to help through the existing systems like the student volunteer army, as I was too young. So I started up a mobile soup kitchen with the support of the Belfast community network to give food to those in the eastern suburbs without power and water. It made me realise that even though I was young, I could still make a difference.

Since then I got my degree and worked for a while as a consultant for Flinch marketing doing work to support UN subsidiaries in areas like sexual health and climate change. I now work as a Community Investment Specialist at NZ Post, helping manage their community funds and social impact work.

What drew you to support this particular cause?
Jacinta and I were flatting together at the time when news articles started to come up around period poverty in 2016. I had never heard of the term before, but it made sense. I was a student and pads and tampons were hard enough for me to afford as a privileged person at uni, so it was horrific to imagine what situation other people were in. I was also really concerned about this issue because of the way it further affected women in poverty, and it felt like the solution was that crazy. People just needed accessible period products.

What are some of the key values you have as a co-founder of Dignity?
Kindness - it can be really stressful working on a social enterprise as well as having a full time job. But Dignity is about improving people's lives and, so bringing kindness to the business is really important - even during the more stressful times.

How has the response been to Dignity?
Occasionally there are some people who aren’t super progressive and haven’t been that supportive which is always disheartening, but overall it has been really good! In general people are really supportive of the work we have been doing - and there have been amazing people in businesses promoting the initiative to get it in their workplaces. People receiving Dignity also really value it and we have seen that through our impact reporting.

Has the stigma surrounding menstruation made it difficult to gain traction? Do you think perceptions are changing?
When we first started the business in 2016 people definitely found it awkward to talk about. We would sometimes go into meetings and notice that the people would avoid saying the word ‘period’. However, as time has gone on people have become less awkward, but it is definitely something that is still there.

You've collaborated with some big corporates such as Xero and ANZ, why do you think it is important for businesses to support causes such as yours?
Businesses rely and operate within communities, and the expectation from these communities now is that businesses will ‘give back‘. People want to purchase from and work for companies that stand for something bigger and fight for change. So supporting organisations like Dignity is important to their social license to operate.

Do you have any female role models who you look up to?
My mum is my number one. She has always given back to her community, her family and been an amazing doctor. I don’t know how she does it all. She is also kind and makes the best chocolate cakes. I have also always looked up to Frida Kahlo, she was authentically herself, celebrated her difference and did incredible work.

Do you think the government could be doing more to help counter period poverty?
Yes definitely, the recent Youth19 survey put it simply. To reduce the impact of period poverty we either need to reduce poverty or increase access to period products. Increasing access to products isn’t that difficult or costly in the scheme of things for the government. It is totally within their power to get products out to all schools and increase period education.

What's next for Dignity?
We want to grow. Grow our impact and businesses. We hope the government funds schools and if they do we will focus our impact on other vulnerable groups that are facing period poverty.

What can individuals and businesses do to help?
So many things! Let your local politicians and councillors know you care about this issue. Advocate for Dignity in your workplace (for more info on us, check out our website). Support businesses that partner with us and other organisations that work in this space!

Are you a Kiwi building a business overseas? Kea can help. We can provide personalised introductions to industry leaders for insights and advice. For more information, check out our Kea Connect service.
More stories like this
Dale Nirvani Pfeifer: Doing Good

Dale Nirvani Pfeifer is the CEO of Goodworld, the leading fundraising resource for online philanthropic donations.

Read more
Katy Kunkel: Balancing Continents

From Aotearoa to America... We spoke to marketing guru Katy Kunkel about her experience having two homes.

Read more
Kiri Nathan: Highlighting Aotearoa

Kiri Nathan's eponymous label has been providing inspiration and connection to Maori designers around Aotearoa.

Read more
Part 12