Australian charity Share the Dignity has today launched a Federal Petition to implement a policy mandating the provision of free pads to all patients being cared for in public hospitals nationally.
This is the latest development in the charity’s #PadUpPublicHealth campaign, which has seen thousands of women and girls across Australia share harrowing experiences of not having access to period products while in hospital.
The campaign, which launched last year, follows the UK’s recent mandate to give all women and girls being cared for by the NHS appropriate sanitary products, upon request.
This is Share the Dignity’s second high-profile crusade, after the charity received more than 104,000 signatures on a Federal Petition to successfully remove the GST on period products in 2018.
Share the Dignity Founder and Managing Director, Rochelle Courtenay, said the Federal Petition will ensure that the issue, and experiences of women across Australia, can no longer be ignored by key decision makers.
“We know the extent of the issue – an overwhelming number of women and girls have told us about how they have had to bleed through their hospital gowns, rely on the kindness of nurses and midwives to give pads from their own supply, or use unsuitable alternatives like dressings or adult nappies. This is not ok.
“We now need strength in numbers, which is why we’re calling on our supporters to sign the Federal Petition and help us reach 100,000 signatures by 16 March 2022.
“This small act on an individual’s part can have a big impact on the lives of women and girls in ensuring that pads are free and easily accessible in all public hospitals for patients who request them,” Ms Courtenay said.
Alethea is just one of thousands of Australians who have been forced to go without suitable period products while in hospital: “I was in the Neurology Ward recovering post-brain surgery and got my period as per normal. When I asked for a pad, the nurse said that they don’t supply them. When I asked why not given that it’s a hospital, she said they simply don’t and that they have other priorities. She offered to get a pair of incontinence adult pull-ups for me – if they had any in stock. I asked what I was meant to do, and she walked away saying that I should have been prepared and brought my own.”
Share the Dignity has already taken steps to improve access to period products in hospitals, installing 20 Dignity Vending Machines across the country. The charity has spent more than $250,000 to date and estimates an additional $300,000 will need to be spent over the next three years to maintain and stock these machines.
“Hospital funding shouldn’t fall to us and the generosity of our community and corporate partners. This issue should be much, much higher on the government’s agenda. Why is it the case that patients have access to bandaids and bandages, pain killers and incontinence pads, but not period products?” Ms Courtenay added.
“Women’s and girls’ ability to safely manage their period is a basic human right. Menstruation is not a choice, and women and girls should not have to worry about how they will manage their period at any point, but especially when they are sick and vulnerable.”
Supporters can sign the #PadUpPublicHealth petition here from today until 16 March 2022. This latest advocacy effort coincides with Share the Dignity’s bi-annual Dignity Drive. Those wanting to support Australians experiencing period poverty can drop-off donations at collection points across the country throughout March or buy a virtual pack of pads for $5 at sharethedignity.org.au.
Share the Dignity believes that those in need have the right to use the products they are most comfortable in using. All approved period products are accepted, such as pads, tampons, menstrual cups, period underwear and reusable pads, as well as incontinence products. Share the Dignity requires all period products to be in the original packaging.