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When they needed to raise money during the COVID-19 pandemic to purchase feminine hygiene products for homeless women, Dignity Matters hosted two FairTrade Caravans fundraisers.

At its core, fair trade is about providing a better life to people who work hard to make or grow goods. This gives artisans and farmers freedom to make better lives for them and their families. That goal is not unique to the fair trade industry.

Dignity Matters is on a mission to give women in Massachusetts freedom by providing them with menstrual care products at no cost. This nonprofit helps more than 10,000 women per month live, work, and raise a family without having to take a week off during their period.

“You can go without many products but if you don’t have access to menstrual care, you can’t do anything,” explains Kate Sanetra-Butler, founder of Dignity Matters.

A Woman Helping Women

Kate, who came to the United State from Poland by way of Australia, started her nonprofit after a random encounter in 2016. While exploring Boston with her children, a woman stopped her and asked her for a tampon. “I thought, ‘That’s kind of weird. I didn’t help her at the time and, frankly, I forgot about her request.” But she did not forget about it for long.

A few weeks later, she was listening to the radio when the topic of menstrual care came up. The program focused on homeless women in Indiana struggling to find affordable menstrual care products. “The host said ‘Homeless shelters struggle to stock these items, no one donates them, and they aren’t covered by food stamps,” Kate recalled. “It just clicked for me, ‘That’s just what happened to me!’”

As a woman, Kate felt called to help her fellow women lift themselves out of difficult situations by providing them with menstrual care products. She understood how disenfranchising it can be to not be able to care for yourself during your period.

“It’s just not socially acceptable to be walking around (during your period) without these items, no matter how poor you are.” So Kate founded Dignity Matters to meet the most-requested donation item by homeless shelters.

It started as a pet project; Kate took it upon herself to collect and buy menstrual care products and donate them to shelters. Within one year, her personal venture grew to a 100,000-item enterprise. Dignity Matters now distributes nearly 2 million tampons, pads, bras, and underwear to homeless shelters in the Boston area each year.

Fundraising for Hope

To help meet the demand for these items, Dignity Matters buys most of the menstrual care products directly from the manufacturers. Even at a reduced rate, this costs a lot of money. Their needs became dire during the COVID-19 pandemic as all types of donations diminished. Kate decided to host a FairTrade Caravans fundraiser for Mother’s Day 2020 to alleviate the financial strain.

“We were searching for ways to keep our supporters engaged while supporting local women in need during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kate explained. “Being able to buy the amazing products FairTrade Caravans sells, that help families around the world from the comfort and safety of their homes, was the perfect opportunity for our supporters.”

The first fundraiser was a big success — more than $700 was raised. Dignity Matters hosted a second event later that year and raised nearly $1000. Many of the buyers in the Mother’s Day fundraiser bought more items from FairTrade Caravans for the Holiday event. “Our supporters really liked what was being sold and several of them told me they made great Christmas gifts for their families.”

The total raised by the FairTrade Caravans fundraiser helped 730 women receive one month of free menstrual care products. During a time of financial uncertainty for many women, this was a huge relief.

Beyond just the financial benefits, Kate pointed out that both organizations share the same desire to empower whole communities through just one person. To Kate, partnering with FairTrade Caravans meant impacting women beyond Boston, MA.

“We share a similar mission, we just have a different geographical focus,” Kate said. “I always say that if you help just one woman, whether it’s in your local community or it’s in a different continent, you don’t just help that one woman. You help the whole family and the whole community.”

To support Dignity Matters as well as artisans and farmers around the world, please shop their fair trade fundraiser.

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