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Meet Nadya Okamoto

By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: August 21, 2019 Revised: August 21, 2019

Nadya Okamoto is a 20-year-old junior at Harvard University. She is the Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD (period.org), one of the fastest growing, youth-run women’s health nonprofit organizations in the United States. Since she co-founded PERIOD at the age of 16, the organization has provided products for over 240,000 periods and registered over 180 campus chapters. Today, the primary goals of the organization are service, education and advocacy. PERIOD delivers “period packs” containing menstrual products to those in need, aims to do away with the taboo around periods and raises awareness of the issue through campaigns and social media.

In addition to starting and leading a successful nonprofit organization, Nadya ran in 2017 for Cambridge City Council in Massachusetts. In addition to her advocacy and political work, Nadya is an author. Her book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement, comes out in fall 2018. With her incredible work advancing sexual health education, menstrual health access and youth advocacy, Nadya is the perfect candidate for Faces of Change.

Passion

“My passion for periods comes from a really personal place of my family experiencing what it’s like to live at another end of what I call the spectrum of privilege. A lot of my motivation comes from this capacity for empathy that I think I built through my family’s experiences of living without a home of our own at a certain point in time. I think it was a monumental experience for me to regularly talk to homeless women who were in much worse living situations than I was; these were women I would see regularly on my two-hour commute to school on public transportation. I would talk with them and collect an anthology of their stories of using toilet paper, socks, brown paper bags and even cardboard to absorb their menstrual blood, and I became obsessed with it. I saw the emotional, physical and economic effect that had on homeless women who were trying to make the best of their situations… but were still dealing with the fact that they’re menstruating on a monthly basis.”

Inspiration

“I have two younger sisters and a single mom, and they’re everything to me.”

Makes Me Angry

“I was angry after hearing stories of women having to use trash for something that is so natural. I was energized when I learned how periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries and the single event that leads to them dropping out of school, getting married early, undergoing female genital mutilation and social isolation. That fire within me really motivated me to do something…and ultimately start PERIOD.”

Ridiculous Myth

“I remember one of my first teachers that actually acknowledged sex in a classroom told us that sex was a sign of love. That if someone wanted to have sex with you it was a sort of expression of loving you. While, of course, sex and love are not mutually exclusive…in no way is sexual desire a symbol of love. Looking back on this, this bothers me at a deep level as a survivor of sexual assault.”

Dislikes

“I dislike feeling tired. Sometimes I wish that I was superhuman and didn’t need as much sleep as I do because I always go to sleep wishing that I could have done more or finished one more email/conversation with someone. There is so much to do and explore!”

Dream Dinner

“I would love to meet Oprah. I would really, really love to meet Oprah.”

Stranded on a Desert Island

“I would bring my mom, One Hundred Years of Solitude and mac and cheese.”

Show Her the Money

“If I had a million dollars I would work on passing policy to require comprehensive sex ed be taught in all schools.”

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