When Shanicia Boswell’s then 6-year-old daughter, Kamryn, asked her mom about periods, Boswell paused. Should she have the “real conversation” with Kamryn or gloss over menstruation? She opted for the age-appropriate full truth.
“I decided to really talk to her about what her menstrual cycle was,” Boswell, 31, founder of Black Moms Blog, from Atlanta, told TODAY Parents. “We have this video online where I'm explaining to her what a period is, and she's telling me what she thinks. And I realized that this is just something that we don't talk about — our menstrual cycles. We still go to the grocery store to buy pads and tampons, and we'll hide the box of pads.”
As she considered her experiences, Boswell realized that so many people feel embarrassed about menstruation.
“The female period has been stigmatized for so many years,” Boswell said. “It's something that we've had to hide, and almost be made to be ashamed of.”
This inspired Bowell to start the Period Party, an annual event that features panels with experts who provide information about menstruation and health. But it’s more than just a learning event: Boswell hopes it changes how people view periods so it’s no longer “taboo” and it becomes more of a celebration.
“A lot of women have had very negative experiences with their menstrual cycles just because they were never told about them. They don't know about their bodies,” Boswell said. “I created the Period Party for young girls so that they could grow up having a positive experience with the menstrual cycles.”
On Feb. 28 from 1 to 4 p.m., Boswell will host the Period Party virtually for anyone who wants to join. As part of the event, Boswell holds a menstrual donation drive to help women experiencing period poverty. Being unable to afford pads, tampons or menstrual cups means that young people might have to skip school, work or activities while menstruating and the pandemic has worsened period poverty, according to Always. One in three parents have admitted they’re afraid they won’t be able to pay for menstrual products.
“Access to proper health care when it comes to our menstrual cycle should be a right not a privilege,” she said. “It doesn't matter a woman's income tax bracket, she should have the ability to properly care for her body.”
This year Boswell has received more donations than in the past two years combined.
“In the first week of the menstrual drive we received over 500 donations,” she said. “It was overwhelming because the issue I was having was finding enough shelters that would actually take that many menstrual products.”
But this generous increase in donations has allowed Boswell to send period supplies to homeless and women’s shelters in other states, including California and Texas.
Boswell hopes that the Period Party is a starting point for parents to have an ongoing talk with their children about menstruation, puberty and health. Kamryn, now 8, doesn't have her period yet, but certainly knows what it is and that she can talk to her mom.
“For me, it’s not really a one-time conversation, it is an ongoing conversation for the next 10 years,” she said. “A lot of girls learn how to use tampons from that little diagram inside of the (tampon) box … I want to change that experience for my daughter.”
Boswell has heard from teens and adults about how much they learn.
“It’s like that conversation you never knew you needed,” Boswell said. "I want my daughter to be able to come to me and share this experience with me because it's something that I've gone through and I think it's beautiful.”