Sometimes in life, especially in Wellington, there’s a beautiful overlap. Today on the last day of our drive I’d love to introduce you to someone who has helped shape my life and is now working for a brilliant cause that I admire.
Soap For Society is all about giving people dignity through access to hygiene products. That is why we are huge fans of social enterprise ‘Dignity’, founded by two amazing Wellington women, Miranda Hitchings and Jacinta Gulasekharam.
Dignity started at the beginning of 2017 in order to help females in New Zealand have access to sanitary items in work and at school. Dignity uses a ‘buy one, give one’ approach so that companies can provide sanitary items not only to their staff, but also to local students who are lacking access to pads and tampons, causing them to miss out on education.
Recently Dignity, who have supported Soap For Society from the start, hired the brilliant Anika Speedy to be their general manager. Anika is a powerhouse and is the former owner of Yoga For The People on Tory Street.
I first started to go to Anika’s old studio when I was 20 and have always loved her philosophy on life and movement. When I was 24, Anika gave me some important life coaching which enabled me to build a more creative and connected life, based on my values. This was personally transformative for me and I always hoped our paths would cross again.
It was therefore my privilege and delight to ‘sit down’ (well, digitally at least) with Anika and find out her ‘period stories’ (both good and bad) and why she is excited to be working for Dignity.
Lucy Revill: Tell us about yourself and your connection to Wellington?
Anika Speedy: I am a Wellingtonian born and bred; I was born at the old St Helen’s Maternity hospital in Newtown. I have lived in Wellington most of my life. My family is here, and I love the city. I left to do my OE and lived in Sydney for several years. In my early thirties I was ready to come back home to Wellington. At the time I was the Direct Marketing Strategist for a boutique Advertising Agency in Sydney, I was managing the direct marketing and eCRM programme for an entertainment company in Asia. I used to love the Agency lifestyle, it was very dynamic, work hard play hard however I found myself no longer enjoying the lifestyle and wanting to make some changes in my life. I didn’t want to move back home to Wellington and simply do the same job for a different Agency.
A friend introduced me to hot yoga, and I knew from my first class that this was what I had been looking for. I loved how the yoga made me feel. At that time there were no hot yoga studio’s in Wellington. So, in 2003 I decided to attend Teacher Training and come home and in 2005 I open a yoga studio and wellness centre on Tory Street. I loved teaching and the connection with students; helping people connect back to their bodies. Helping people become stronger and happier in themselves, emotionally and physically. Ultimately helping people create more balance and a healthier lifestyle.
I also trained as a Life Coach so I could work with people one on one. I saw so many students who were unhappy or dealing with stress and anxiety in their lives. I wanted to help them create change and achieve the life they wanted.
For a number of women, the stress of having to deal with their periods at work is another ‘thing’ that can cause anxiety and stress. This is one of the reasons Dignity resonated with me as I could see how changing attitudes could impact on so many people.
To help create balance in my life, we live in Long Gully Station, past the Brooklyn Wind Turbine where we have 11 acres of regenerating bush. We have the best of both worlds living in a rural property only 15 minutes from the heart of the city. We built our house a couple of years ago and we still wake up each morning feeling as if we are on holiday.
Our goal is to ultimately be self-sufficient on our land. Last month we opened a glamping hut, a private oasis amongst the birds in the bush. A place where people can stay and recharge and connect back to nature and take time out from the stress and business of life today.
The Dalai Lama has beautiful quote ‘my religion is kindness” I believe that everything comes back to kindness, it is important to be kind to our environment, kind to others and kind to ourselves.
LR: Describe what Dignity does?
AS: Dignity runs a buy one, give one model – for every box of sanitary items a company purchases, we give the equivalent away to schools and youth organisations in need, all over New Zealand.
Our customers, including ANZ, Cigna, Xero and AMP, are delivered our Dignity package which includes Organic Initiative sanitary items (whose products decompose in 5 years as opposed to 500 years for conventional products), display canisters and posters in the female bathrooms to provide for free to female employees.
We then give the equivalent number of boxes bought to schools, youth organisation and women’s support services across New Zealand totalling to 25,000 people.
Our purpose is to create a movement in New Zealand where women can access sanitary items for free, whether that is through our initiative or encouraging businesses to provide these for free.
We aim to play a leading part in actively reducing the stigma surrounding periods through awareness and women’s experiences being shared widely.
LR: What does Dignity mean to you?
AS: To me Dignity means empowerment.
LR: What made you want to put your hand up to be Dignity General Manager?
My passion is helping people achieve a greater sense of wellbeing. It is important to me that what I do is aligned to my values and has meaning. Dignity ticks all the boxes.
Dignity is a purpose driven social enterprise creating change;
• Changing attitudes
• Changing inequality
• Changing lives
I have huge admiration for Miranda and Jacinta and what they have created with Dignity. They are both incredibly smart, talented and passionate about what they do, and I am excited to work with them.
LR: What is your worst period story?
AS: When I was at University, we used to meet at the Western Park Tavern in Thorndon. One day when we are at the pub, I went to the toilets to change my tampon and realised I didn’t have a spare tampon. Luckily there was a vending machine in the toilets, however it only had Sanitary pads which I didn’t normally wear. So, I bought a pad and stuck it on. I wasn’t wearing the best underwear and it was hard to fix the pad in place, we then decided to head back to a friend’s house in Thorndon. As we were walking to their house, I felt the sanitary pad slowly come loose. I remember walking up a very steep set of stairs. At the time I was wearing tight skin jeans and as I walked, I could feel and see the pad slowly travel down my leg. The whole time I was hoping no one would notice. When we finally arrived at the house I went to sit down. I crossed my legs and looked down and noticed the bottom of the pad was now sticking out the bottom of the leg of my jeans. I didn’t know where the toilet was, and I was too embarrassed to draw any attention to myself. I tried to subtly shove the pad back into my jeans. I don’t remember how long it took me to get up the courage to ask where the toilet was and re apply the pad. It seems funny now in retrospect but at the time it was truly mortifying.
LR: How does the work of Dignity impact others?
Dignity is a wellness initiative and impacts others on many levels.
Helping to create a sense of fairness and equity in the workplace; Our customers are providing free period products for their female employees. Helping to reduce the stigma around periods. Dignity customers Flick and Xero have found an 82% increase in personal support felt by their female employees with Dignity.
Creating awareness of Period Poverty and Advocating for change.
Proving free sanitary products to schools and organisation in need. Meaning young women don’t have to miss school because they have their period or feel embarrassed or shame for something that is perfectly natural and affects half of the population.
Championing Positive Periods - a campaign aimed at making period products accessible and free to all students in New Zealand alongside professional menstrual education.
LR: What are you most excited to achieve with Dignity in your new role?
AS: Helping to create change in the period poverty space and for women in general.
LR: Why is it important to keep talking about period poverty?
AS: Human dignity is a right; you should not have to feel embarrassed or be disadvantaged by something you have no control over. Periods are normal, they are natural, and all women get them!
We need to keep talking to raise the awareness and help change attitudes towards periods.
Young girls should not miss out on their education because they have their period.
Women should not have to feel anxious or embarrassed to talk about periods in their workplace or in general.
LR: Where would you like to see Dignity go?
AS: I would like to see Dignity continue to be a leading voice to advocate, innovate and create change in the period poverty space. I believe there is huge potential for Dignity to grow and I look forward to exploring the options and working together to see where we go!
LR: How can people support Dignity and Soap For Society?
AS: Get in touch with us. Visit: www.dignitynz.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We love talking about how we can help people in need.
LR: What are your favourite Wellington haunts (i.e. place to shop, place to get coffee)?
AS: My current favourite haunt is the Gypsy Kitchen in Jessie Street, they have best Turmeric Latte. For a night out you can’t beat our local The Salty Pigeon in Brooklyn – great staff, great atmosphere and great food.
My favourite spot is sitting on the little bench seat on our deck in the sun drinking a cup with my family drinking a cup of tea!