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Great Ydeas bring sexual assault, menstruation stigma into spotlight

Nine Canberra women have been chosen as the recipients of the 2021 YWCA Canberra Great Ydeas grants, providing them the opportunity to pursue their passions and improve the community.

With ideas ranging from a new collective network of women composers to a new platform to buy and sell second-hand clothes, two of the Great Ydeas applicants brought forward timely projects focusing on issues that have recently dominated media coverage.

Camille Schloeffel’s Safe Response Toolkit is designed to help victim-survivors of sexual violence.

Camille Schloeffel, 24, was the recipient of a Great Ydeas grant for her Safe Response Toolkit, a project that will provide information to victim-survivors of sexual violence and their supporters about how to respond to disclosures safely and to access support services in Canberra.

As the founder of The STOP campaign, a grassroots campaign started at the Australian National University to tackle sexual violence at Australian universities, Ms Schloeffel is passionate about empowering and educating victim-survivors in Canberra about the personal, legal and medical considerations when disclosing and reporting sexual violence.

Through her work at The STOP Campaign, she found most victim-survivors were unsure of where to go to receive support.

“Women and girls are primarily being affected by sexual violence, and a lot of these systems and processes tend to have quite a bit of bias towards these people,” she said.

“I think sexual violence is such an uncomfortable topic for everyone that everyone avoids no matter what.”

The Safe Response Toolkit Project will be available in both digital and physical form. It aims to reduce the stigmatisation of sexual violence and provide victim-survivors with the autonomy to access and navigate available support systems.

Ms Schloeffel said that following the Brittany Higgins rape allegation that rocked Parliament House, the Safe Response Toolkit Project has evolved and “come to light alongside the mass institutional betrayal from various institutions”.

“It just feels super validating and empowering that YWCA Canberra believes in the project and is willing to address the hard issues with us together,” Ms Schloeffel said.

As charities such as Share the Dignity continue to call for donations of period products, 29-year-old Jean Du is aiming to change the narrative surrounding menstruation by providing menstrual, sexual health and reproductive education.

As the recipient of the Sustineo Great Ydeas Empowerment Grant, Ms Du said her project “Primary” aims to address the gendered stigma of menstruation to empower women, girls, and others who menstruate.

Supporting people who menstruate in Australia and around the world, Primary will focus on the Indo-Pacific to help people reclaim ownership of their bodies.

“It was the brainchild of the combination of my experiences as a pharmacist and then having done more research into the politics of international aid and development,” she said.

“The way that gender is implemented within the international aid and development space is not understood in the way that it probably should be and there’s still a long way to go.”

In March, the NSW Department of Education announced it would begin a program to supply free pads and tampons to address period poverty in schools, following similar initiatives in Victoria and South Australia.

While Ms Du says there is some traction surrounding the distribution of menstrual products through initiatives such as this, Primary will offer different services.

“What I find missing is something that addresses what I feel like underpins everything, which is the stigma that is attached to menstruation,” she said.

Still in its early stages, Ms Du hopes Primary will add to the conversation surrounding period poverty and menstruation.

She plans to use the Great Ydeas grant money to kickstart Primary.

“That can lay the groundwork for a really substantial way of relieving stigma,” she said.

“I would love to see it grow, maybe to deliver education packs or to provide policy advice on international aid and development or in any way that I can really feel like I can make an impact.”

For more information about YWCA Canberra’s Great Ydeas Small Grants Program, visit the YWCA Canberra website.

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