Unless you’ve been living under a rock in 2019, you know that folks from Generation Z are absolutely rocking it when it comes to activism and fighting for social justice. Nadya Okamoto is no exception. Now 21, Nadya founded PERIOD. when she was just 16 and the organization has been growing ever since; it’s now the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health!
Recently, SGP was lucky enough to take some time out of Nadya’s busy schedule to ask about PERIOD.’s work and National Period Day coming this month. We chatted about all things menstrual rights, including how you can get involved!
What is PERIOD.?
PERIOD strives to end period poverty and period stigma through service, education, and advocacy. We do this through the global distribution of period products to people in need, we’re trying to change the way people think, talk, and learn about periods through education and digital content, and we’re now mobilizing around period policy from the local to the federal level advocating for equitable access to menstrual hygiene.
What inspired you to get involved in the menstrual rights movement?
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 a 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 barriers that menstruation has for girls in school around the globe (it’s 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, 35 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. 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.
Menstrual rights aren’t often talked about, due to the taboo surrounding periods. How can we work to lift this taboo?
Talk about periods! Get involved and start a conversation about menstrual equity in your community! There are so many ways to get involved from starting a chapter to hosting a packing party. You can find more information on our website.
Is there anything about period stigma or period poverty that people might be surprised to know?
In the first city-wide study about period poverty, 46% of low-income women said they’d had to choose between a meal and period products.
Describe what a typical workday is like for you at PERIOD.
I’m either traveling for speaking and meeting, or I’m sitting and grinding on work with about 20 phone calls back to back.
PERIOD.’s goals are to serve, educate, and advocate. Can you explain what each of these elements involves
We strive to provide menstrual hygiene products to those in need, provide accurate, science-based information about periods, and advocate for social change surround menstruations and gender equality.
PERIOD started off donating pads and tampons to homeless shelters, and that is still an important part of our work. This is accomplished through our incredible partners, sponsors, and chapters. Education is vital to our mission as we break down the stigma surrounding menstruation, and that leads directly into advocacy.
When is National Period Day and what is it? How can readers get involved with National Period Day?
This is a year-long campaign to nationally elevate the issue of period poverty with clear policy demands for freely accessible period products in schools, shelters, and prisons, and to eliminate the tampon tax in the remaining 35 states.
On October 19, 2019, the very first National Period Day, PERIOD will mobilize rallies in all 50 states and major cities — all organized by young leaders in their communities. The campaign also includes a celebrity PSA, influencer marketing on social platforms, national collection drive for period products, and lobby days in early 2020. Be on the lookout for rallies in your area!
Before we leave you, do you have any other projects that we should keep an eye out for?
I wrote a book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement! I’m also Chief Brand Officer at JUV Consulting.