(Photo courtesy of Nadya Okamoto)
Adlai E. Stevenson High School

How Nadya Okamoto is starting a conversation about periods

When Nadya Okamoto faced a period of homelessness in high school, she ended up connecting with other homeless women. She learned that some women were forced to resort to using socks, cardboard, and grocery bags as pads.

After hearing about the women’s experiences and doing her own research, Okamoto was inspired to take action. At only 16 years old, she co-founded PERIOD to help homeless people get access to menstrual products and raise awareness about periods.

PERIOD has supplied menstrual products to women all across the world. To date, PERIOD has helped serve 510,181 periods.

“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,” Okamoto said. “It’s about time we take action.”

When she first started PERIOD, Okamoto was met was skepticism and laughter. However, this only motivated her to work harder. Now, PERIOD became the leading youth-run nonprofit focused on women’s health.

Because of the stigma that still exists regarding periods, increasing menstrual product access isn’t the only thing PERIOD has been working on. PERIOD has advocated against the ‘tampon tax,’ which is a tax in 35 states that labels menstrual products as “luxury items,” and is trying to help girls around the world who have to miss school because of their periods.

When asked what she would change if there could be one thing she could change in the world, Okamoto said it would be eliminating the tampon tax.

Today, PERIOD chapters exist in campuses across the U.S. They are youth-driven programs that aim to create change on both a local and national level. Okamoto encourages young people to explore what they are passionate about.

“You are strong, you are capable, and you are not alone!” Okamoto said. “No matter what you want to do, you just have to go for it! If there is something you want to do, do it!”