In Australia, close to 46,000 women are experiencing homelessness. According to Homelessness Australia, 1 in 42 women aged between 15 and 24 will access a specialist homelessness services, 55 per cent of which are victims of domestic and family violence.
Often these women are unable to purchase basic sanitary products during their menstrual cycle and instead use more easily accessible items such as rags, sponges and newspapers, or resort to theft.
The matter has drawn the attention of former Neighbours actress Saskia Hampele, who has this week launched a kickstarter campaign to crowdfund an idea to improve these statistics.
With the $45,000 she hopes to raise online, Hampele intends on producing her first shipment of organic tampons and pledges that for every packet purchased, she will donate another to women in need. The idea is aimed at conscious consumerism and came about after she was asked to donate to Share the Dignity, a drive that collects sanitary products for the homeless.
The former social worker tells SBS: "I knew that in third world countries there was an issue around feminine hygiene but it hadn’t even occurred to me that Australian women might be going without.
"I started researching the issue and it was just shocking and appalling to me that women can’t access sanitary products, because as a woman, I think about that time of the month and going without something for an hour is the most stressful experience, let along an entire cycle."
While a supporter of the cause, Hampele believes that in the long run, having to buy a full-priced product for donation is a largely unsustainable habit that only adds to the profit margins of the big brands. Instead, she decided to create a one-for-one product.
“You know what, it worked for Tom’s Shoes it worked for Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, [conscious consumerism] is the way we’re starting to spend our money these days, so I crunched the numbers," she explains, “Instead of pocketing giant profits myself, I’m going to absorb the cost of the donation back into the line”.
However, as she intends on her product being priced the same as other commercially-available ones, Hampele is keeping her costs low by opting for simple and basic packaging, and relying on help from her celebrity friends to raise awareness about the brand.
Former Home and Away star Esther Anderson and Bold and the Beautiful actress Ashleigh Brewer both star in a home-made video promoting the product. In addition, TV and radio presenter Scott Tweedie has also gotten on board, and on Thursday shared an Instagram image of himself with a female stick figure drawn on his hand as a symbol of his support.
Homeless women and transgender men who are reached by the Salvation Army are provided with welcome packs that contain sanitary items. Similarly, the Melbourne Period Project is one of a number of outreach services that deliver menstruation packs to homeless women in need.