Periods. Every woman experiences them usually from around 12 years old up until their 50s.

A natural part of life; you would think tampons, pads and menstrual cups would be seen as an essential item; accessible to every woman.

Yet, these sanitary items are so often not accessible to women across South Australia and beyond.

Thankfully, Essentials 4 Women SA (E4WSA) aims to provide basic but essential feminine hygiene items, including sanitary products and underwear to women who can’t afford such ‘luxuries’.

After realising the demand for sanitary items (which are rarely donated and quite costly,) along with the rise of UK campaign The Homeless Period (which saw the indignity homeless women face who are forced to choose between food or sanitary items), E4WSA was born.

Founded by Amy Rust and Kelly Peacock in April 2015, E4WSA aims to empower and enhance the wellbeing and dignity of vulnerable women in SA.

The demand for feminine hygiene products goes beyond women who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Recently arrived migrants, women who leave domestic violence situations, and some girls who have to miss out on school because of their periods, may not be able to afford such luxuries.

Now with the impact of Coronavirus, E4WSA Co-Founder Amy says there is even more of a demand for sanitary items.

“With Coronavirus impact, there has been a lot of panic buying that saw different agencies reach out to help their clients who were struggling to get the basics they needed,” she says.

“We were able to help out with sanitary items because they were one of those weird things like toilet paper that people suddenly thought they needed a huge supply of.”

E4WSA runs one to two donation drives per year with donation bins accessible across the state, but they also have an office on Hindley Street where people can drop off donations anytime.

Amy says the best way you can help is by making financial donations in order to manage the amount of handling involved in product donations.

“At the moment, financial donations are the best way to support us because we can get supplies direct from manufacturers and get it delivered, rather than what we normally do where members of the public physically go buy an item, put it in their trolley, put it in the public donation bin, then we get it – there’s a lot of handling involved,” she says.

“When trying to maintain social distancing and have as little contact as possible, that’s not something we can do.”

But making sanitary items more accessible to women isn’t the only problem we can help with.

The taboo and stigma around periods are something we also need to work on as a society.

For most of us, every month when our period comes knocking, so does the stress and anxiety that comes with it.

And I don’t just mean because our hormones tend to go a little crazy, but because we’re thinking oh no what if I get blood on my pants, or, oh no there are other people in the bathroom how can I open my pad discreetly? 

As Amy explains, periods are a normal part of life, so we shouldn’t have to constantly be so discrete or embarrassed about them.

“Don’t be weird if someone brings it up – everyone’s done that shuffle towards the toilet where they would have a tampon up their sleeve and really try to be quiet while opening it in the toilet,” she says. “You’re not doing anything bad or weird, every woman at some point has a period.”

So if you’re deciding on how you can help SA women in need, making a financial donation to E4WSA or simply trying to reduce the taboo around talking periods is a great place to start.

To find out more information on where and how you can donate, head to their website E4WSA.

By Adriana Sinicropi