Nadya Okamoto truly needs no introduction, but if you aren’t aware of this powerhouse, she is a game changer in the menstruation movement and one of our biggest role models at Faces of Feminism. We’ll let her explain the rest.
Who is Nadya Okamoto?
Nadya Okamoto, who grew up in Portland, OR, is 21-years-old Harvard student on a leave of absence. She is the Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD (period.org), an organization 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 500,000 periods and registered over 300 campus chapters. In 2017, Nadya ran for office in Cambridge, MA. While she did not win, her campaign team made historic waves in mobilizing young people on the ground and at polls. 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. Most recently, she was named to InStyle Magazine’s “The Badass 50: Meet the Women Who Are Changing the World” list, along with Michelle Obama, Ariana Grande, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
What does feminism mean to you?
To me, feminism just means GENDER EQUALITY.
Tell us about Period: its start & mission.
I founded PERIOD when I was 16-years-old, as a junior in high school, after my family experienced living without a home of our own for several months. During this time, on my commute to school on the public bus, I had many conversations with homeless women in much worse living situations than I was in. I was inspired to learn more about menstrual inequity and period poverty after collecting an anthology of stories of their using toilet paper, socks, brown paper grocery bags, cardboard, and more, to take care of something so natural. Via google searches, I learned about the barrier that menstruation has for girls in school around the globe (they are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries), about the effects for disadvantaged menstruators here in the US, and the systemic barriers to proper menstrual health management.
It’s 2019, and yet, 34 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. Over half of our global population menstruates for an average of
40 years of their life on a monthly basis, and has been doing so since the beginning of humankind. It’s about time we take action.
How has founding Period changed your perspective on womxn’s rights and other current issues?
Periods are not just a women’s issue. This is a human issue. It is about over half of our population feeling clean, confident, and capable regardless of a natural need.
What was it like running for a spot on Cambridge City Council in 2017?
It was an exhausting but very meaningful experience — and while I don’t have any regrets about my run, I don’t have any current plans to run for office in the near future. I’m going to stay focused on working on the menstrual movement, and mobilizing and empowering young people.
What advice do you have for other Gen Z womxn looking to run for a government position?
You are strong, you are capable, and you are not alone! No matter what you want to do, you just have to go for it! If there is something you want to do, do it! It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing or you don’t have the resources. Find your people, find a mentor, and ask questions!
Have you ever experienced people dismissing you and your ideas because of your age? If so, how do you respond?
I let our results speak for themselves! We are so proud of our chapters, all of which are lead by young people mobilizing in their own communities. We owe our success to them. Just watch what we’re doing and what we have already done. Catch up!
How would you encourage Gen Z to think outside of the box when making change?
Don’t recreate the wheel. Before you start something or take action, do some research first. If something similar exists, then think about what you can do to start something that is unique. It will be better for you in the long run too!
If you feel comfortable sharing, how do you experience white/privileged feminism on a daily basis?
Every time I talk to someone who is not being mindful of the importance of intersectional feminism – and considering the different parts of one’s identity.
What is in store for the future for Nadya and Period?
I HAVE NO IDEA — just taking it day by day and dreaming big.