When her daughter had her period for the first time, Mpho Motloung wanted to make sure her menstruating experience was a positive one. What started as a mother’s care package has since blossomed into Petals SA, a social enterprise dedicated to ending the stigma around menstruation.
Motloung, a mentorship programme manager, has always had an interest in youth development and education. “There’s power in a young person having someone they can look up to,” she says.
In December 2020, she gave her daughter a gift box when she started her period. It contained period products, informative brochures, and self-care items such as bath bombs and confectionery. “I didn’t want her to have the same negative experience as myself,” Motloung says. “With all these myths around periods, I wanted her to have accurate information.”
Her daughter took the present to school to show her friends, and soon Motloung was overwhelmed with requests from teachers and parents asking her to make them “period boxes” — and Petals SA was born.
Motloung refers to Petals SA as a social enterprise, rather than a business, as making money is not the organisation’s primary goal. “The period box serves as a vehicle to get people to our platform and join in the conversation around periods,” she says.
She primarily uses TikTok (where Petals SA has more than 20 000 followers) and Instagram to post a combination of humorous videos, informative posts and interactive quizzes. To ensure her message is landing with her target audience, she works closely with her daughter.
“Being relatable is very important, and that’s where my daughter comes in,” says Motloung. “She advises me on what teenagers like, what language they use and how to make videos that they can connect to.”
The personal element of Petals SA is crucial for Motloung. “Many organisations do amazing things to end period stigma and poverty,” she says. “But they mostly just dump period products on menstruators.”
Her venture places emphasis on education around periods in a way that is accessible to young people. “We avoid using jargon. A 12-year-old doesn’t want to know what progesterone is; they want to know things like if it’s normal to get menstrual clots.”
Since starting the online Petals SA community, Motloung has received some negative feedback, mainly from parents. “Many people have said I need to stop talking about vaginas and blood so much,” she laughs, adding that negative comments actually motivate and inspire her to keep spreading her message.
While Petals SA is still a young enterprise, Motloung has big dreams for it. She hopes her site will grow into a trusted online hub for menstruators. “I would like to create a space where everyone who wants to ask about periods can,” she says.
She was recently invited by Lil-lets to join their team and answer period-related questions on their online portal, and she is using this insight to grow Petals SA. “People aren’t asking the generic questions you see on other websites,” she says. “I’m hoping to take this experience and use it to make my site as informative as possible.”
Growing up, I was fed the wrong information about periods. I don’t want my daughter, or anyone, to have the same experience. Giving period products to menstruators is just part of the solution; there is a lot of education that is needed as well.