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Meet the Founder: Nadya Okamoto of PERIOD

Nadya Okamoto, Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD

Kind Lab: Please introduce yourself.

Nadya: I’m Nadya Okamoto, Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD (period.org), an organization I started when I was 16. I’m now 21 and attending Harvard.  PERIOD is now the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health, and one of the fastest growing ones here in the United States. Since 2014 we have addressed over 950,000 periods and registered over 600 campus chapters. 

Kind Lab: When and why did you decide to found PERIOD, your non-profit?

Nadya: I founded PERIOD when I was 16 years old and 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 the 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 barrier that menstruation has for girls in school around the globe (they are 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 2020, and yet, 31 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, and periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries.

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. We’re focusing on getting period products into schools, shelters, prisons, and other government-run buildings.

Kind Lab: What is the mission or vision of PERIOD?

Nadya: For the next year, PERIOD’s strategic plan has included plans to empower young leaders in the Menstrual Movement, galvanize the movement, and fight for menstrual equity via period policy.

With our service goal of trying to empower our chapters to do more work in their local communities to distribute period products to people in need, we need to more powerfully motivate and communicate with them to do so (the best way to do this being through our digital channels).

We are continuing to garner support from brands and corporate sponsors. We are educating, and have begun to focus on digital content as a way to change the pattern of how people think, talk, and learn about periods. Lastly, our fastest-growing pillar in the strategic plan is advocacy – which is where our policy efforts are outlined. The two goals are raising awareness about period poverty at the national level with a unified effort to also mobilize chapters on the ground, and to fight period poverty in schools. 

Kind Lab: How or why did your experience in founding PERIOD transition into you writing your book, Period Power?

Nadya: I wrote it because I am truly obsessed with periods! I want to educate people about menstruation, redefine the culture around periods, and get people to talk about them. I hope my book inspires people to do that. 

Kind Lab: If you could tell your younger self something about women’s health, what would it be?

Nadya: I would tell my younger self to focus on self-care sooner! It is all about balance. I have learned what I need and what kinds of self-care are important and effective for me in my life. You have to make sure you are making time to give your body what it needs. This can be as simple as getting enough sleep and making sure you eat good food. For me, a big part of my self-care routine is working out. I feel better when I am making sure I find time to exercise on a regular basis.