A male Federal MP for an ACT electorate has thrown his support behind addressing one of the distressing effects of female homelessness that often flies under the radar – a lack of essential sanitary items such as pads and tampons.
Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh is calling on Canberrans to take part in Share the Dignity’s April drive to collect around 7,000 packets of pads and tampons to help the growing numbers of women and girls experiencing homelessness in the city.
Dr Leigh, who has a collection box at his Braddon electorate office, has also added his weight to the charity’s calls for an end to taxing sanitary products.
“No woman should have to choose between a meal and sanitary products,” Dr Leigh said.
“Last year, more than 600 women were listed as homeless in the ACT. That’s hundreds of women who face the struggle of choosing between spending money on essential sanitary items or having a roof over their heads.”
Dr Leigh said that the need for sanitary items sometimes gets forgotten when people think about the needs of the homeless.
“It is one of those important campaigns for male politicians to support as well as our female colleagues,” Dr Leigh said.
“We know that across the ACT that access to sanitary products is a challenge particularly for women who are in homeless shelters or vulnerable situations and it just stretches the budget a bit further for some of our most vulnerable community members.”
Share the Dignity founder Rochelle Courtenay said the organisation, through its bi-annual drive, helps in a small way to alleviate the undignified situations thousands of women across the country have to endure.
“So many women, every month, have to forfeit sanitary products because they cannot afford them,” Ms Courtenay said.
“Many mothers have to choose between buying tampons and feeding their children. Girls miss out on school simply because families cannot afford to buy the basics of necessities.
“When they cannot have access to the essential feminine products women become extremely resourceful…by using wadded up newspaper, or toilet paper, or socks. This should not be happening.”
Ms Courtenay said that nationwide the charity is aiming to collect 200,000 packets of pads and tampons during the April ‘dignity drive’.
In the ACT, Share the Dignity works with all the local charities that help women in need and aims to collect just over 7000 packets of pads and tampons to fill the forecast need until its next dignity drive in August.
Ms Courtenay said that last month Share the Dignity petitioned the Federal Government to put an end to taxing sanitary products.
“In less than a month we collected just over 104,000 signatures,” Ms Courtenay said.
“Feminine hygiene products are not a luxury therefore they should not be taxed. Women who cannot afford them have no way of pursuing a normal public or private life and are at risk of jeopardising their health.”
Dr Leigh told The RiotACT that he supported Share the Dignity’s move.
“We strongly support the notion that tampons and pads should be GST-free,” said Dr Leigh.
“It just doesn’t make any sense that Viagra is in the GST-free category and tampons and pads are subject to GST.”
Ms Courtney said that on any given night in Australia, one in 200 people are homeless. Of these, 44 per cent are female and 27 per cent are children under the age of 18, with 55 per cent of females citing family violence as the reason they are homeless.
Share the Dignity’s pink collection boxes are located in a range of places throughout Canberra, including Dr Leigh’s electorate office at 8/1 Torrens Street, Braddon. For a full list of locations or to find further information please go to the charity’s website by clicking here.