Two Victoria University of Wellington students have teamed up to create a new initiative to alleviate the cost of sanitary products for school girls. The Dignity project allows businesses to subscribe in order to pay for tampons and pads for their staff and young girls in a buy-one-give-one model. Founded by Miranda Hitchings, currently studying her Honours degree in Marketing, and Jacinta Gulasekharam, 2016 Bachelor of Commerce graduate. “As students, we understand the financial burden of buying sanitary items. It’s really hard to factor it into your budget when you’re not earning much money. Some young girls who are unable to afford these items or don’t have easy access to them are missing out on school because of it,” explained Gulasekharam. “We both knew we needed to do something about it.”

The duo started developing Dignity during their university's annual Entrepreneur Bootcamp where Hitchings said that it helped shape their concept. “After carrying out research and customer interviews, we realised the buy-one-give-one model was beneficial and sustainable for everyone.”

The business model shows a workplace buying bulk orders of sanitary products for its staff and for each product purchased, another is delivered to a local high school.

Dignity partnered with New Zealand supplier Organic Initiative whose certified organic products decompose in five years in comparison to standard products which is 500 years.

Flick Electric was the first business to sign up to Dignity and was delighted by the great response from their team. "We think it is a really positive way to demonstrate that we are a diverse and inclusive workplace," said Nikki Bloomfield from Flick Electric. "The service Dignity provides makes sense. Workplaces provide all kinds of office consumables, and there is no good reason why sanitary items should not be included. We hope in the future it becomes the norm for all workplaces to make these products available to women, and that other businesses follow in our footsteps."

Gulasekharam and Hitchings are now looking to sign up more businesses and eventually spread Dignity across the country. “Businesses have a strong social responsibility and they can create change,” added Hitchings. “Small, incremental changes, like providing free sanitary items, can have a positive impact on employee wellbeing and the community.”