In this series, we strive to make activism as accessible to our readers as possible. We highlight the young activists from our generation making waves around them. We hope they inspire and ignite you to make an impact of your own.
Nadya Okamoto, who grew up in Portland, OR, is a 22-year-old Harvard student. She is the Founder of PERIOD (period.org), an organization fighting to end period poverty and stigma that she founded at the age of 16. PERIOD is now the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health, and one of the fastest growing ones here in the United States. Since 2014 they have addressed over one million periods and registered over 700 campus chapters in all 50 states and 40 other countries. In 2017, Nadya ran for public office in Cambridge, MA at age 19 — becoming the youngest Asian American to run in US history. Nadya recently published her debut book,Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement with publisher Simon & Schuster, which made the Kirkus Reviews list for Best Young Adult Nonfiction of 2018. Nadya is the Chief Brand Officer of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z marketing agency based in NYC. She is included in the latest cohorts of Forbes 30 under 30, Bloomberg 50 “Ones to Watch” and People Magazine's Women Changing the World.
GEN-ZiNE: What about period poverty is significant that not many people are aware of?
Nadya: We are still working to break the period stigma and address period poverty. It’s not just a “women’s issue”; this is a human issue and it affects us all. It is 2020, and yet, 30 US states still have a sales tax on period products because they are considered luxury items (unlike Rogaine and Viagra), period-related pain is a leading cause of absenteeism amongst girls in school, and periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. We must work to fight period poverty and stigma through education so that we can reshape the way people think, talk, and learn about periods!
GEN-ZiNE: Not everyone will go on to found non-profits or be the face of a movement—what are ways that people can still make an impact from the “sidelines”? How can everyone make a difference?
Nadya: They can join or start a PERIOD chapter at their school or in their community! We have over 700 registered chapters across the globe that strive to advance PERIOD’s mission of ending period poverty and period stigma, by creating action plans employing our three pillars of service, education, and advocacy. Chapters run educational workshops in their community to reshape the way people think, talk, and learn about periods. They also distribute menstrual products to people in need in their community, and work on changing policy to advance menstrual equity on both the local and the state level. All of the information on how to get started can be found at period.org! Other ways to work towards ending period stigma are to have open conversations about menstruation, educate yourself and others, and fight alongside PERIOD to change policy!
GEN-ZiNE: What makes you believe in Gen Z? What do you want to see more of from Gen Z, or what do you want to keep on seeing?
Nadya: PERIOD is a youth-powered nonprofit, and the most rewarding part is to see how hard our chapter members work and how passionate they are about the menstrual movement and taking action in their communities! Our impact attests the power of GenZ, and I am inspired by them every single day! I hope that GenZ continues to be bold, passionate, and engaged in building something bigger than themselves.