Today we’d like to introduce you to Twymeika Hill-Jones.
Twymeika, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I wasn’t always as confident about puberty and my feminity, specifically, related to my MoonSHINE (menstrual cycle). I remember parts of my childhood growing up in Joppy a.k.a. Joppa, located in South Central Dallas, the Last of Freedmen’s town in Dallas. Growing up, I felt like I always had something to prove. Girls weren’t weak or “less than” capable than boys. We could do anything they could do. I used to challenge my brothers and cousins in games like Follow the Leader, football, relay races, heck I even tried to pee (urinate) standing up. Needless to say, THAT went all wrong! Lol. Boys had more freedom than girls. They could play two blocks over but my sisters and I were not allowed to leave our street. I didn’t want to be a boy, but I envied them, in a sense. So, I guess you can say I started out, a bit tom-boyish. I still loved all the girly stuff, playing with dolls, anticipating the days I could wear color nail polish and makeup but when in the streets, the fellas needed to know I could keep up with them, even as a girl. Then, as I got older, my body began to make it perfectly clear, we were different in other ways beyond our physical agility.
My mother had the “TALK” maybe once or twice, oftentimes as things were happening not necessarily before. My breast began to grown, her response was “it’s time to go bra shopping”. When hair began growing under my arms or pubic hair on my “private”, I later learn it’s actually my vulva. It was time to wear deodorant under my arms so you don’t walk around musty and start looking out for my period, because it would show up any day and if I were not at home, wrap tissue around your underwear until you get home and momma will have what you need. Not ask another friend-girl, teacher or nurse, just stuff your underwear with tissue until you get home, now known as the MacGyver method which means get creative in the hunt to find what you need to hold you over. The menstrual cycle was not an open conversation.
It was this embarrassing secret thing that would happen once every month for the REST OF YOUR LIFE! Ok, not really but as a kid, you think it’s an eternity to bleed once a month with no end date because you were never taught otherwise. I mean, nobody went into the store revealing their box of pads or tampons. Not even on the belt at the register. We were trying to slide them in while no one was watching and would be even more embarrassing if you got the checker, who act like she/he is confused about whether or not it’s your item. Holding the pads up she/he would ask, “Uhh, do you want these pads or were you putting them back”. And you reply in anger because you were embarrassed, “Put the damn pads in the bag, already and they ain’t fuh me, they fuh my mama!” I mean that is where it all began.
Then, there was the man who became my college sweetheart, who is now my husband. While I was attending the HBCU that is world renown as the institution that “Produces, Productive, People”, THE Prairie View A&M University, I met the man who became my college sweetheart and is now my husband. While dating this man, shockingly enough, his actions had me re-evaluate my period experience. Weird, right? I know, stay with me.
We had been dating for some time. I was practically living in his dorm room. When we were not meeting each other in between classes or walking under the stars, at night, vibing each other’s energy and having good conversations, I was chilling in his dorm room, even after hours, when I wasn’t supposed to be from time to time. Hey, don’t judge me. Anyway. One day, he was making a typical storeroom, but this time, he asked me if I wanted him to pick up my pads. I looked at him crazy because my first thought was he was trying to be funny, implying I was having mood swings or something. I brushed him with a smirk and was like “WTH ever, I’m not even on my period, don’t be funny.” He, in turn, said, “No, I’m serious, I know it’ll be starting soon and since I’m going to the store, I will get them if you want me to.” Still not taking him seriously, I said, “Yeah. Ok.” This man was like, “The Green ones right?” At that moment, I was like “Well, damn, he knows when it’s coming, which pads I wear and willing to pick them up from the store?”
It was mind-blowing. Whereas most people would probably see this as a trivial gesture, but for me, I pondered, “how is he more comfortable with my period than I am and he’s attentive, which added to his attractiveness. Here I am thinking I’m doing a great job at hiding my pads, controlling my emotions, so I’m not giving out hints on when the GodIS Menses comes to visit and he’s known all along and been cool with it and he’s a MAN, the source of where our shame and embarrassment stems from, that along with the miseducation taught through religious and cultural beliefs.
From this experience, I began to see this part of my feminity, differently. It was no longer this embarrassing secret because I’m dating a man, who gets it. And if he cool, why am I tripping and it’s my PERIOD. The rest was history. The negative social norms no longer applied to me.
As the years continued, I was always in shared space with other women whether it was from my social club memberships (Sigma Juliet, Inc and Ladies Of Integrity, Phyette, Incorporated) or communal circles with women while attending Florida A&M University for graduate school, the HBCU where RATTLERS STRIKE. We were comfortable with discussing men and period grief, amongst other things. As I got older and the circles shifted, I met women who were vested in healthy lifestyles inside and out. I learned how diet affected our womb wellness and the power of sisterhood. After receiving my Master’s in Science Degree, those lessons followed me back home to Dallas, Texas.
A few months after my return home, I began working with Tisha Creer, to support inner-city girls through a series of overnight teen retreats and day workshops, monthly. This later expanded. I become an independent contractor with the City of Dallas and began working as a teaching artist, consultant, youth coordinator, advocate and activist for inner-city youth and adults.
I also had the pleasure of bringing school, families, and community together as a Community Liaison for the Dallas Independent School District for more than 10 years.
Working with girls and their caregivers in school and community settings, ignited the birth of Empower You, PERIOD! I had given my niece a MoonSHINE Party, to celebrate her menarche, her flowing into womanhood. Her mother and I knew it was important for her not to grow up unprepared, embarrassed and ashamed of one of the most important milestones in her life.
She invited a few of her friends over to help us honor her. The mothers and I shared period stories, I had interactive sessions educating her and her friends on the importance of their MoonSHINE, it’s many names, how to chart her cycle, what to expect, how to use products, their many menstrual hygiene management options and the importance of loving everything about themSELVES, UNCONDITIONALLY, including their menstrual cycle, PERIOD!
It was a huge success. Her friends and their mothers had never experienced anything like it and they loved it. I was told, “I wish I had this as a little girl,” her friends were all excited for their period to arrive. From there, I birthed the idea to provide it as a service for other girls.
However, it wasn’t until years later, I committed to bringing it to life. For several years, I spent time working with girls, women and the men who love them! In my work, I recognized, as women, we were having horrible womb experiences from miscarriages, hysterectomies at younger ages to reoccurring vaginal infections and our lack of information related to improving our MoonSHINE experience by shifting to a healthy lifestyle, from the products we use to the foods we eat.
Our girls were also struggling with understanding what was happening to their bodies, during puberty, especially when embarking upon their first MoonSHINE, PERIOD not to mention poor menstrual hygiene management (MHM). Mothers and Fathers were also challenged with how to communicate these changes to their girls. It was there, I realized the need to empower the girls and their caregivers with how to have a conversation to communicate these changes rather than “THE TALK”.
Girls were leaving school because of PMS, engaging in poor menstrual hygiene management because they didn’t have pads for their T.O.M. (Time Of the Month) or its unexpected moments, whether that was because she couldn’t afford it or she was too embarrassed to ask for one. Most simply didn’t know what to do. This became more obvious after I was designated to lead the hygiene segment of school assemblies with the girls, which added to my workshops for girls as a City of Dallas vendor. It had such a positive impact on the girls. They began to come to me to assist them during their MoonSHINE. I was not only providing menstrual hygiene products, but I was educating them why they don’t have to be embarrassed about their MoonSHINE but also how to minimize cramping, odor and cleaning their underwear.
I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. It was a real need and I decided to address it.
Empower You, PERIOD! provides convenient access to natural period products from reputable brands and services that address reproductive health and self-esteem.
As a woman, I realized we are good enough, everything has a purpose including our period, naturally. This start-up company focuses on alleviating the negative social norm, address the health and wellness of women and girls while encouraging them to recognize their power, embrace and celebrate it! Besides her menarche (first period) is an important “Coming Of Age” Rites of Passage.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has been quite an interesting journey. In its conception, I was blessed to be elected as a global fellowship for social change which awarded me attendance at the Nola ’16 Starting Bloc Institute in New Orleans. I was able to learn directly from high impact change leaders, work with frameworks for delivering change and building relationships with a community of other socialpreneurs. It was amazing. The Starting Bloc Institute helped me evolve the idea of Empower You, PERIOD into an actual online, retail store and service provider that educates girls and their caregivers about reproductive health and self-esteem.
As a fairly, new start-up company, with a very ‘unpopular’ theme, it definitely came with its challenges. When I hit the pavement ready to alleviate negative social norms and make popular, the use of natural period products, its introduction was not so welcoming. When encouraging women to make the switch to natural products after they are used to the household names that may not be free of chemicals and pesticide-free, some were not ready to make the switch.
Even when visiting schools and organizations, some folk I knew, they love the idea and definitely see its needs, they even shop their menstrual hygiene products with me, but they see it as a “sensitive topic” and unsure if it should be taught outside of the home.
As pointed out in an article by the World Banks Group organization, The challenge menstruating girls and women face is rooted in social norms and beliefs.
In many cultures, menstruating women are considered unclean and are systematically excluded from participating in every-day activities, such as education, employment, and cultural and religious practices. Moreover, the taboos and stigmas attached to menstruation lead to an overall culture of silence around the topic, resulting in limited information on menstruation and menstrual hygiene. Such misinformation can have ramifications on the health and dignity of girls and women.
In addition, as I am standing against years of misconceptions about the relevance and importance of our MoonSHINE, there was also my desire to tackle period poverty. Believe it or not, some girls/women don’t have access to quality products, especially those in marginalized communities. They simply can’t afford period products, let alone natural period products, which often cost maybe two or three dollars more than the other ones, so schools are not investing in them.
During my work in schools, I can’t count the number of girls that stop by my room, to ask for pad products during school and to take home because their period started and they didn’t have what they needed to take care of her unexpected moments. The nurse in most schools provide free sanitary napkins but oftentimes you need a pass to see the nurse or the moment it shows up and you are in class on the 2nd floor in the back of the school, the restrooms don’t have the pad vending machines and the nurses office is on the 1st floor in the front of the building. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 🙂
I began creating Stay-Ready carry cases (with natural period products) for girls to help out with her unexpected moments and making sure she has the products she needs, even if she can’t afford it, but I was only one person. So, I had to come up with a way to cater to more girls which is now a campaign, “Because She’s Worth It”. It allows others to do the same, to improve menstrual hygiene health and reduce period poverty among inner-city youth.
So, although challenges arise, I am motivated to continue the work. The challenges are my inspiration. Today, women are embracing their bodies with a desire to own their power and I’m here for it. Empower You, PERIOD reminds women and girls to celebrate their feminity, their bodies and to take care of themselves inside and out! Our mission is to make sure women and girls are not limited by their periods. We make sure of that with every pop-up shop and workshop. People walk away #empoweredPERIOD. #NATURALLY. #NoMoreLimits
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Empower You, PERIOD! story. Tell us more about it.
Empower You, PERIOD! Is The Latest Generation of Natural, Feminine care Packaging and Services that celebrate and educate women and girls about our reproductive health and self-esteem, as well as, raise awareness and change negative social norms related to our menstrual cycle and hygiene management.
Being committed to creating a healthier, exciting world for women and girls without shame and embarrassment, Empower You, PERIOD provides convenient access to natural period products from reputable brands to cater to her menstrual hygiene maintenance with our online store and our services offered for families, schools and community organizations, provide a unique platform that takes a direct approach to develop self-esteem, address reproductive health, promote the use of natural products, and alleviate the negative social norms attached to menstrual hygiene and its conversation.
As a Transformation Advocate, I am committed to changing her menstruation experience and the conversation by transcending its negative social norms. As a result of what I do, she falls in love with herself and makes integrity-based decisions, to govern herself, accordingly in the world around her. That is what I most proud of about my business.
When a woman or girl make the switch to natural, MoonSHINE products, when she no longer limits who she is and what she is capable of based upon the negative social norms they were raised with related to femininity and our MoonSHINE, that is my gratification. When a girl or girl, prioritize her menstrual hygiene health, by asking me for a pad or approach me at a pop-up shop to discuss menstrual hygiene management openly, these are things I find rewarding.
My company is unique because there are few business and organizations that promote the use of natural period products and provide menstrual hygiene education. Empower You, PERIOD (EYP) provides easy access to natural, reputable brands to make sure women and girls know their options exceed maxi pads and tampons with our online store, as well as pop up shops and workshops to make sure she knows “She’s Worth It”. Unlike most campaigns that address period poverty, our “Because She’s Worth It” campaign gives back to girls, locally.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
5-10 years from now, stigmas and taboos about puberty and period talk will be a thing of the past, period products will be tax free rather than charged a “luxury tax” and vending machines will be made accessible in public restrooms, at school, work, and all else-where, with natural products from reputable brands in them. Poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education will not exist because it will be offered in schools across the country for all ages. Period poverty will be addressed and free natural, period products will be offered to girls in public schools, just as free lunch is offered for everyone in most public schools. Period products will be available not only in the nurse’s office but the school and work restrooms.
Major shifts are already happening. Women are exploring natural, reusable and disposable options when it comes to menstrual hygiene. States have begun to remove the “luxury tax” from feminine hygiene products. Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day) that occurs May 28, annually, is now internationally recognized. MH Day is a global advocacy platform that brings together the voices and actions of non-profits, government agencies, individuals, the private sector and the media to promote good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) for all women and girls. More specifically, EYP participates in its mission to break the silence, raise awareness and changes negative social norms around menstrual hygiene management (MHM).
Right here in Dallas, EYP has serviced nearly 1000 women and girls with our online store, a series of workshops, booth exhibitions and pop up shops. just within the last two years. And it has provided more than 200 FREE Stay Ready Carry Cases for inner-city youth with our “BECAUSE SHE’S WORTH IT” Campaign.
- It’s all about M.E. (Manners & Etiquette) Girls 8-11. 2-5 day workshop. 2-3 hour sessions. Addresses manners, social etiquette and puberty. $20 per girl.
- Let’s Talk, PERIOD! Girls 12-18. 1-3 day workshop. 2-3 hour sessions. Addresses reproductive health and self-esteem.
- MoonSHINE Wellness Workshops. Girls 10-18. Girl Scouts earn their Women’s Health Badges. 1 day workshop. 2.5 hour session. $20 per girl.
- BECAUSE SHE’S WORTH IT campaign. P.urchase A.nd D.onate a STAY READY Carry Case or other natural, individual products for inner city girls. $7-$20.
- Shop, Natural Menstrual Hygiene Products from reputable brands on our website. $7-$40.
- Website: www.empoweryouperiod.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Classi Nance Photography