Period Equity Heroine: Chelsea von Chaz
Synclaire Warren and Chelsea VonChaz are two Black women making history in 2022 by working to make menstrual equity a reality and building a brighter future for all. The Saalt Team had the privilege of speaking with both Synclaire and Chelsea earlier this year about their work, what they love about it, and what they’ve learned along the way.
At Saalt, we are honored to be in community with such incredible innovators and change-makers in the period equity space.
Meet Chelsea VonChaz, co-founder and director of #HappyPeriod and Menärchē.
“I want to be responsible for Black women and Black girls having better experiences with their menstrual cycles.” —Chelsea
In 2015, Chelsea Von Chaz started #HappyPeriod with her mother, Cherryl Lucy-Warner, and an all-volunteer team providing people experiencing homelessness with period care products. #HappyPeriod slowly grew to be chapter based, and have now expanded their mission to serve all Afro-Indigenous people across the United States with period care products and menstrual health education that is comprehensive and rooted in self-care and body autonomy.
“My favorite part of the work we do at #HappyPeriod is working with young people,” Chelsea shares. “Like, people under the age of 20. They’re just so open—even if they’re trying to be closed up, they’re open and vulnerable and understanding. I love the ah-ha moments with people. I love when young people feel safe and empowered.” In addition to educating young people, Chelsea says that she finds a lot of joy in talking with parents about the importance of having conversations about menstrual health with their children.
“I hear from parents sometimes who haven’t yet given their kid ‘the period talk’ yet, because it makes them nervous. I always tell them, ‘You have to break the cycles. If you don’t do it, then there is something there that is rooted in shame.’ So, you’re indirectly telling your kids that it is something to be silent about because it’s bad, it’s horrible.”
Breaking intergenerational silence around periods can be the first of many steps toward opening up conversations about advocating for one's own healthcare needs and boosting confidence in self-advocacy more broadly.
“It’s important because periods aren’t going to stop. We’re seeing some progress now because people are talking about it. And we all want better. But we’re dealing with PCOS, with fibroids, with PMS, with PMDD. In many cases, we’re suffering in silence, we’re experiencing these things in silence.”
Chelsea still sees a lot of opportunities for continued progress in the way we advocate for period equity and whose voices are at the center of the conversation. She wants to see greater diversity in the stories being told and a movement from menstrual equality to menstrual equity.
“I’ve learned that there’s still a lot of discrimination in the world of combating period poverty. There tends to be one face, or one type of face represented. For example, people with periods who are also living with disabilities are often left out of the conversation,” Chelsea says.
In addition to bringing attention to more experiences across the spectrum of people living with disabilities, Chelsea is advocating for greater first-person storytelling when it comes to educating the world about period poverty and how we can achieve menstrual equity.
“I see too much white saviorism and not enough different people being involved in the conversation. I want to see more Muslim women, for example, in the conversation. Same with people who live in India. My women, my girls, my trans folks who are in India… These are the types of voices that I think should be heard more, instead of someone else telling their story.”
Menärchē, Chelsea’s newest project, is a shame-free menstrual care marketplace that offers choices in products and brands, educates shoppers about their period in the process—and funds menstrual equity initiatives, like #HappyPeriod.
Chelsea says that she has met so many people who are innovating in the period care space, but weren’t able to compete with larger brands for shelf space in spite of having great products and fighting for menstrual equity. Menärchē will feature many of these smaller brands, so these innovators have space to shine, too.
Saalt is proud to have the opportunity to share Synclare and Chelsea’s work with our Saalt community. The work they both do to improve the period care space and get us all closer to achieving period equity is invaluable. Chelsea and Synclaire are doing something amazing—they are making menstrual equity history, right now.Click here to read about Synclaire Warren