What’s your name and what are your pronouns?
Lisa Maathuis (she/her).
What does the word “dignity” mean to you?
Dignity, for me, means the right for someone to genuinely feel confident in themselves, that they are worthy of respect, connection, education and love regardless of who they are, where they came from and what’s happening to them or around them.
Is there anything you wish you had known when you first got your period?
Getting my first period was pretty daunting – I was one of the last in my friend group to get it and I actually recall being quite excited about its imminent arrival! But when I did get it, it wasn’t quite the glossy Girlfriend Magazine experience I was expecting: it was heavy and it was painful. At the time, I wish I’d known these things were both normal and experienced by a lot of people, and that there were ways to manage both.
What was a meaningful experience related to your period that you would like to share?
Periods change as we change. After the birth of my son, I didn’t expect my period to return so soon. I had read somewhere along the pregnancy journey, that your period most likely won’t return until after you have stopped breastfeeding. My husband and I were on our first weekend away with my son, who was 5 months old and was still breastfeeding, so I was taken by surprise when my period came back very unexpectedly and with new symptoms like waves of nausea that came and went all day. I was grateful to have a very understanding husband who jumped in the car to grab me a supply of period products, pain medication and snacks, and know that our first trip away would now be a lot more low key than we’d planned, as I had to manage the pain, nausea and fatigue that came with my period’s surprise return!
What would you like to say to anyone navigating their first period?
Getting your first period is daunting, it’s totally normal to be scared or unsure about what to do – so firstly, don’t be hard on yourself if you feel like you don’t know where to start. Think about what products you would like to try and set some time aside, to practise using them, without any time pressure. Little things like reading the manual or watching videos online can help you better understand how the products actually work and then, give yourself time at home, when you don’t have to rush, to learn how to use the products on yourself. It can also be really helpful to reach out to other women, to talk to them or ask questions: although we unfortunately don’t usually talk about periods in open conversations, most women will be happy to support you.
Why do you think businesses should have Dignity at their workplace?
During my first week at Dignity, a male friend said to me: I understand why your organisation would be giving period products to those in need, but why would companies pay for these for their own people, when they are people who can afford to buy them themselves? I responded that if we applied his logic to all workplaces, then he would need to start taking his own toilet paper to work when he needed it… Period products should be provided in the same way that other sanitary items are provided in workplaces, period.
Practical solutions aside, it’s more important than ever that businesses support the health and wellbeing of their people – When employees’ wellbeing is thriving, there is higher productivity and performance, lower rates of burnout and higher loyalty to stay with their employers. When employee wellbeing suffers, businesses are likely to feel the impact too. Providing period products is one way for companies to support their team's wellbeing, alleviating things like the embarrassment of being ‘caught out’ at work, without period products, something most people with periods have experienced at some point in their lives.
What do you do outside of Dignity?
Outside of work, I love creating memories with my husband, our Border Collie Archie, and my son – he is the most amazing little boy and I want to give him a life full of love and adventures. I also love galavanting on overseas adventures; having lived in Tokyo and Amsterdam, it’s always exciting to jump on a plane and visit old friends there. When at home in Wellington, I enjoy spending time in nature, doing HIIT workout classes, cycling and eating amazing food, wherever that may be!
What is a quote you live by?
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
How would you like to see the current status quo around access to period products and period equity in Aotearoa change?
It would be great to see every single workplace in New Zealand offer period products to their team as a “normal” item, alongside things like toilet paper and tea and coffee. Having more workplaces in New Zealand provide period products through Dignity specifically would also enable us to better support our Give Partners, who help us with getting the gifted period products to those most in need to work further towards reducing period poverty. Lastly, we need to see a step change in how we teach people about periods in New Zealand, not only to reduce stigma and shame, but to make young people feel more confident in their knowledge about periods and how to navigate them with dignity.