PERIOD.: Leading the Menstrual Movement with Nadya Okamoto
Words by Ry Lei
Published Nov. 5, 2018
She calls it her “time of transition.” It’s a seven month period in which a 15-year-old Nadya Okamoto would couchsurf among friends and in the mornings would wait patiently for her bus on the outskirts of Old Town Chinatown—of Portland—to take her to school.
That commute was usually two hours long. During the trips, Okamoto was able to connect with homeless women who were living in conditions worse than hers, often resorting to alternatives to hygiene products—it was these conversations about periods that she had on her commute that ignited the spark.
She was 16 years old and going into her junior year of high school when she co-founded her nonprofit and became a new face of the menstrual movement.
But she didn’t do it alone.
“I was first introduced to PERIOD when Nadya approached me with the idea,” said co-founder and operations director Vincent Forand. “After hearing Nadya’s story and recognizing her dedication towards it, and that she needed a partner in this endeavor, I decided to take the leap with her.”
It wasn’t easy starting out. It almost never is when you’re running any type of organization as a high school student, but they did it—they sat down in a Starbucks for six hours and left with the blueprints for the whole organization—then known as Camions of Care, which focused on promoting menstrual hygiene and providing period products to those in need. Eventually, the nonprofit changed its name to PERIOD. Period included.
Being a youth-run organization has been, and still is, an obstacle for them.
However, PERIOD being entirely youth-run has its advantages. Having tools like social media and the internet means PERIOD is always connected to others; they’re able to mobilize their supporters in a specific Gen Z way that aged corporations can’t—young people bring energy and urgency for change into every sphere of their lives, and social media is no exception.
“At 26% of the current global population, [Gen Z is] the largest segment of a population in the history of the world. We’re 46% of the total media audience, and we know social media better and navigate the digital world differently,” Okamoto wrote in an Instagram caption. “We’re changing the game. So, let’s speak up, take action, and claim our potential. We got work to do and problems to solve.”
It’s this youth engagement and energy that brought the menstrual movement to the table and to every room.
“There’s always a way to create change,” said Okamoto. “How that change comes about is different, but I knew from the start that I was going to invest in PERIOD and put everything I could into it.”
And that’s what she did.
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See the rest of the articles from issue four here.