Chelsea VonChaz was on her interval when she had an encounter that may sooner or later lead her to dedicate her life to menstrual fairness. On the time, VonChaz was working as a wardrobe stylist in Los Angeles for exhibits like Issa Rae’s Insecure. She was touring from one gig to the following in West Hollywood when she witnessed a lady experiencing homelessness free bleeding. It struck a chord.
“I simply felt like no one was taking her severely, after which I used to be sort of having ideas about how we do not actually take a look at people that we deem as unfavorable or disagreeable,” VonChaz instructed CelebrityPie. “Along with her being so uncovered, it simply made me actually mad.”
After working in Hollywood for a number of years, VonChaz was in search of better function for her life. Naturally, this was the spark that led her to begin reaching out to shelters. She quickly discovered that shelters aren’t required to allocate any a part of their price range to menstrual hygiene merchandise, they usually typically run low on these important objects. That developed into month-to-month period-product distributions, which VonChaz organized together with her mom, household, and associates, specializing in neighborhoods with excessive homeless populations and due to this fact excessive interval poverty, like LA’s Skid Row.
She quickly discovered that shelters aren’t required to allocate any a part of their price range to menstrual hygiene merchandise, they usually typically run low on these important objects.
Finally, virtually a 12 months after her preliminary aha second — and lots of nights spent tossing and turning — VonChaz left styling and determined to make the nonprofit official. #HappyPeriod has grown exponentially over the previous six years, partnering with firms like Cora, The Honey Pot Firm, and Thinx to get merchandise to colleges and shelters. Nevertheless, throughout the pandemic, VonChaz needed to pivot away from coordinating bodily distribution, volunteering, and any academic programming, which pressured her to suppose exterior the field. She pioneered the primary interval safety gear (PPE) machine, a digital kiosk allotting packing containers of pads, tampons, and even interval underwear to interchange often-defunct public restroom machines. In contrast to most merchandising machines, the PPE machine is cashless. The merchandise are free, and the machine is sustained by donations from individuals who cease by and provides with a view to hold it working.
After some fundraising, #HappyPeriod put in the primary PPE machine at a Shields For Households group middle in Compton, CA, in partnership with the town of Compton and Mayor Aja Brown. Mayor Brown’s workplace beneficial this specific location, because it’s an space in nice want of free merchandise — however VonChaz harassed that she needs to department out past group facilities and shelters as nicely. She’s hoping to increase the PPE machine program by gaining extra company and particular person sponsors, with a view to put kiosks in locations like LAX or center college restrooms. “It is not nearly serving houseless people, however individuals who won’t have entry to a tampon in that second,” VonChaz mentioned.
Simply as necessary as getting the correct merchandise in individuals’s palms helps individuals study what merchandise are greatest for his or her our bodies, VonChaz defined. This previous 12 months, she centered additional on growing the tutorial element of #HappyPeriod. As an alternative of visiting colleges for applications about menstrual schooling, she’s making these academic supplies digital, together with a free, downloadable period-care and self-care book and workbook, which is on the market on the #HappyPeriod website. One long-term purpose consists of growing a menstrual well being curriculum that college districts can undertake, which might contain college students of all gender identities studying about durations, as a result of everybody can profit from complete, culturally delicate sexual well being schooling.
“If [it were] necessary for the faculties to show this, Black girls wouldn’t be up to now behind in our menstrual well being,” VonChaz mentioned. Her principle is that elevated information round reproductive well being may probably assist Black individuals who menstruate and provides start to raised advocate for themselves in healthcare settings, the place their considerations are repeatedly dismissed. She famous that Black women are three times more likely to suffer from uterine fibroids than white girls, and the maternal mortality rate is more than three times higher for Black girls giving start.
All over the world, Black individuals and other people of shade are additionally the ones struggling most with period poverty, VonChaz defined — which is why #HappyPeriod’s mission is to “reshape the dialogue surrounding menstruation, whereas bridging entry to schooling and protected merchandise for Black individuals with durations.” With that, she’s working to disrupt the “white savior” narrative that exists in some areas of the nonprofit and menstrual-equity area, the place organizations are sometimes positioned to serve Black or marginalized individuals however are led by white individuals.
[#HappyPeriod’s] work positively impacts a million durations throughout the nation every year.
“You possibly can’t serve Black individuals with out together with them. No Black woman will likely be utterly impacted by a white girl telling them to modify over to a menstrual cup,” VonChaz mentioned. For her, it is about giving Black individuals who menstruate the required interval merchandise, together with the instruments and information they should higher perceive their menstrual cycle and the product choices accessible to them — and that may’t be absolutely completed with out Black management inside menstrual-equity organizations.
A number of years after #HappyPeriod was based, the nonprofit’s work positively impacts a million durations throughout the nation every year. One tampon, merchandising machine, or college program at a time, VonChaz is making durations a daily, integral a part of dialog, and equipping individuals with no matter they want whereas they bleed. And he or she’s simply getting began.