Skip to content
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore.

Jun 10, 2022

Chez Smith: Providing Safe Spaces and Period Supplies for Young Women

Heidi Stevens

Chez Smith was living with her grandparents in high school when her grandmother passed away, leaving Smith and her grandfather to navigate the thorny patches of adolescence alongside their grief.

“I was definitely not comfortable talking to my grandfather about periods,” Smith said. 

She found herself wishing there were more resources in her community to help her learn about her reproductive and sexual health. After college, she embarked on a career in health care and eventually served as the administrative director for a family planning clinic. What she witnessed over and over revealed a tremendous gap in what young women need to know about their health and what they’re actually taught.

“We all need a safe space to talk about changes in our bodies,” Smith said.

Anything you want to grow, you have to nurture it.”

In 2017, she founded the Gyrls In The H.O.O.D. Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit that works to increase positive reproductive health outcomes among young women. (H.O.O.D. stands for Healthy, Optimistic, Outstanding, Determined.) The organization provides workshops and sexual health conferences for schools, churches and community groups as well as a free, 12-week Diapers B4 Degrees program that meets twice a month.

In 2021, the foundation opened the H.O.O.D. House for women 18-21 who need stable housing. Residents can stay for a full year, and they receive therapy and other support services during their stay. The group also provides free H.O.O.D. kits (shown above), filled with feminine hygiene products and other toiletries, to folks who fill out an application form on the website. 

“I would meet girls who were missing days of school during their cycles or using paper towels,” Smith said. “Or they wouldn’t want to get up from their desk because they might be experiencing leakage. We want to help them get the products they need and also make this space available to openly talk about these things, to ask questions and get factual, non-judgmental answers. It’s something I wish I had when I was growing up.”

So she dreamed and built it into reality.

“I just want people to recognize that these girls are amazing,” Smith said. “They have so much potential. They just need resources. They need love and encouragement—just like anything you want to grow, you have to nurture it.”


You can help create change on behalf of all parents and children in the way that works best for you. Join Parent Nation today.