All menstruators should have access to safe period products. That’s the message of Chelsea VonChaz, founder of the nonprofit Happy Period.
She started the grassroots movement in Los Angeles nearly five years ago with her mother and friends after she saw a homeless woman free-bleeding in Hollywood. VonChaz was motivated to help and give women the dignity they deserve.
Within a year, she started the nonprofit, which expanded across the country, including New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. The chapters have collected and donated over 100,000 period products.
The charity is focused on reshaping the discussion surrounding menstruation and providing access to safe period products. Its initiative supports anyone with a monthly cycle from an underserved community, experiencing homelessness, or living in poverty. The target beneficiaries are ages 12 to 55. Happy Period is inclusive to veterans, individuals living with a disability, the LGBTQIA community, young girls, women, and nonbinary individuals. It also serves a wide range of ethnicities, including African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, and others.
Until recently, its core giving was to those in need of menstruation products at shelters and transitional homes. That changed in 2017, when VonChaz started receiving emails from teachers requesting donations of pads for their students.
Students in need
“Teachers were saying that they would have to go into their own purses to give their students pads or tampons because there’s no longer a nurse station at the school,” she says. “The main reason I would be told is that the school lost some funding so the nurse was let go, or there’s just no money to purchase menstrual products for the students anymore.”
VonChaz found out schools don’t have product dispensers in restrooms or the gym as well. She wanted to know more about the issue, so she asked some teachers to allow her to do period workshops with their classes.
But first, she did an intimate workshop at the Femme International organization in Nairobi, Kenya, where she’d been visiting for a wedding. She then partnered with some more organizations and brands to collect data and feedback on menstrual health.
“Black and brown bodies, globally, are the suffering the most when it comes to menstrual equity,” she says. “I’ve witnessed a lot of white superiority even in the space charitable giving surrounding menstrual health care.”
In the new year, Happy Period is launching “SELF,” a new youth-centric curriculum focused on period health and self-efficacy, empowering black and brown nine to 13 year olds.
“The purpose of the new program is to promote and inspire educators to reduce stigmas associated with menstruation by challenging rigid school policies and advocating for equitable health education,” says VonChaz.
One goal is to normalize menstruation by creating a curriculum that includes the menstrual cycle, by ensuring all students and staff, regardless of sex or gender, understand the menstrual cycle. Another goal is to be positive by using correct terms for menstruation, instead of slang or euphemisms such as “Aunt Flo” or “monthly visitor.”
Next, Happy Period wants to increase accessibility by encouraging parents, school boards, and institutions to think of menstrual products as school supplies. This means stocking bathrooms, nurses’ offices, and even classrooms with menstrual products and making sure students know where they’re stored.
It’s also urging school administrators to reconsider bathroom and dress code policies and ensure no one has to wait to use the bathroom in the event of an emergency.
“There is no reason why a student should be refused to go to the restroom, especially if they menstruate,” she says, concluding, “I think education is what will make the difference. It will help break the stigma, and that’s a huge piece of this puzzle.”