The Lovers & Fighters of America’ is a monthly column here at Ravishly featuring behind-the-scenes stories of inspirational people taking a stance against hate. Today, we feature menstrual movement PERIOD’s Nadya Okamoto.
Meet 19-year-old Nadya Okamoto, a second year Harvard University Social Studies major with a mission. In fact, this determined young woman has many-a-mission and was recently recognized for her trailblazing initiatives as one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Inspirational Women Under 21 for 2017.
Through Okamoto’s various endeavours, it’s clear this tenacious young advocate intends to make the world a better place. After Trump’s presidential win, Okamoto started up Eplur.org, a space where young people can share personal stories of how the current administration’s actions are affecting their lives.
After pushing for change in her current community of Cambridge, MA, she decided to throw her own hat in the running for a seat on city council. Though she didn’t win, Okamoto showed dedication throughout her campaign and connected with many members of the community by canvassing door-to-door.
Okamoto’s inspired approach and hands-on commitment are transforming perceptions of what young people are capable of. In fact, her longest standing initiative, Portland-based menstrual rights organization PERIOD is gaining national and global attention. The goal of PERIOD, Inc. is to “have equitable access to menstrual hygiene, breaking down the stigma around periods, and to push forward social change around periods.”
The youth-run non-profit was co-founded with a high school classmate Vincent Forand in 2014. The project was the result of conversations Okamoto shared with some homeless women she’d met at a bus stop. These conversations shed light on the challenges faced by impoverished women during their periods. Being without proper period products led them to use socks, toilet paper, and even cardboard as makeshift maxipads.
“In the last three years, we have addressed over 200,000 periods through product distribution and registered over 150 campus chapters at universities and high schools around the U.S. We are in 42 states and 15 countries. We’re going to keep expanding that and deepening our impact in key cities.”
Okamoto says learning about the stark realities and potential health risks faced by these women enabled her to see her own privilege. This was a grounding lesson for the teenager, who was a scholarship student at an elite private school surrounded by peers from well-to-do families. Her family was not financially wealthy or even comfortable at the time; in fact, they were struggling to make ends meet and were staying with friends.
Though it started as a simple way to help women facing even more econimc instability than Nadia, PERIOD has grown over the past few years, powered by both volunteer and paid staff members all fighting for equitable access to menstrual hygiene.
And, according to Okamoto, further expansion is on the horizon. She told Ravishly: “In the last three years, we have addressed over 200,000 periods through product distribution and registered over 150 campus chapters at universities and high schools around the U.S. We are in 42 states and 15 countries. We’re going to keep expanding that and deepening our impact in key cities.”
PERIOD is set to open two new offices this year, one in Boston and one in New York. Also set for the upcoming year is a continued push for local and federal policy changes to better support women’s rights to safe and hygienic period products.
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Last year they hosted PERIOD Con in New York and, due to its success, they’ll be hosting another one this year. Okamoto will soon add ‘published author’ to her list of accomplishments, having just submitted her manuscript to Simon & Schuster. Power to the Period is set to hit bookshelves in the fall of 2018.
Nadya Okamoto’s advocacy and endless dedication to make positive social change makes her a genuine role model for young people, and we are honored to feature her as our Lover & Fighter here at Ravishly.
If you know an inspirational Lover & Fighter whom you’d like to see featured on Ravishly, send a message to Shannon Day via Facebook.
Lovers & Fighters say "hell no" to racism, sexism, bigotry, and xenophobia. These men, women, and children are saying "heck yes" to equality, human decency, and love. From bold acts of advocacy to simple moments of goodness, these everyday people remind us of what it truly means to be American.
These lovers and fighters are resistant in the face of intolerance. They are bold in the presence of judgment. They are determined to join forces (or to stand proudly alone) to ensure their message is heard: #LoveTrumpsHate