When Shanicia Boswell's daughter asked her what a period was, she was inspired to host period parties to destigmatize menstruation.
At six years old, Shanicia Boswell's daughter Kamryn asked her what a period was. At the time, she wondered about whether she should simply gloss over menstruation or if she should share the age-appropriate truth. She decided to do the latter. That is when Boswell became more acutely aware of just how stigmatized menstruation is within society. In order to erase the taboo that surrounds periods and eliminate period poverty, the mother began hosting the Period Party. This is an annual event that features panels with experts who provide information about menstruation and health, Today.com reports.
"A lot of women have had very negative experiences with their menstrual cycles just because they were never told about them," Boswell, the founder of Black Moms Blog, shared in an interview with the news outlet. "They don't know about their bodies. I created the Period Party for young girls so that they could grow up having a positive experience with their menstrual cycles." Several panelists participate in the virtual party, sharing their insights about menstrual health. For instance, this year's lineup included Dr. Charis Chambers, the period doctor; Dr. Kiarra King, an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in Black women's health; and Christine Carter, a sociologist and the author of The New Adolescence.
The Period Party also functions as a fundraiser to eradicate period poverty, which is the cycle of poverty that menstruators find themselves in as a result of not having access to period products such as pads and tampons. When menstruators lack access to safe period products, they may resort to unsafe alternatives such as newspapers and, in many underdeveloped parts of the world, sand, ash, and husk. They may also stay at home, missing out on an average of five days of work or school a month. Therefore, Boswell holds a menstrual donation drive to help menstruators experiencing period poverty. She affirmed, "Access to proper health care when it comes to our menstrual cycle should be a right, not a privilege. It doesn't matter a woman's income tax bracket, she should have the ability to properly care for her body."
This year, she received more donations than in the past two years combined. "In the first week of the menstrual drive we received over 500 donations," she explained. "It was overwhelming because the issue I was having was finding enough shelters that would actually take that many menstrual products." In addition to this, Boswell hopes that the Period Party becomes a starting point for other parents interested in educating their children about menstruation and menstrual equity. She said, "For me, it’s not really a one-time conversation, it is an ongoing conversation for the next 10 years."
Her own experience with explaining menstruation to her daughter began when Kamryn was only six. The mother recalled, "I decided to really talk to her about what her menstrual cycle was. 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." In this light, Boswell's Period Party helps fill a knowledge gap. She stated, "It’s like that conversation you never knew you needed. 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."