This 21-year-old woman has already written a book, run for office, and is on a mission to end period poverty

Founder & Executive Director, PERIOD.org Nadya Okamoto speaks onstage during The 2019 MAKERS Conference.
Founder & Executive Director, PERIOD.org Nadya Okamoto speaks onstage during The 2019 MAKERS Conference.

They weren't lying when they said Generation Z might be the generation that will really save the world. Youth born between the years 1996 and 2010 has been heralded the "most woke generation ever" by several organisations. 

And according to Forbes, "research shows that engaging around good causes is a great way for companies to connect with Gen Z."  

If they're not starting their own movements, they're making purchases based on the values a brand stands for. It's not surprising then, that 21-year-old Nadya Okamoto is one of the poster children of the activist generation of Malala Yousafzai, Sonita Alizadeh, and Sibulele Sibaca.

READ MORE: Orphaned at 16 years old, Sibulele Sibaca has grown up to join forces with the UN to empower girls

This is not to say social justice causes belong to individuals, but rather it is to commend those who have put themselves on the line - in whatever capacity they can - all in the name of bringing about change for the better.

Nadya's activism started when she was just 16 years old, founding a non-profit organisation called Camions of Care, which distributes sanitary products to homeless shelters, and has now been rebranded to become the youth-led organisation called PERIOD.

The inception of Period was triggered by the now 21-year-old Nadya's daily two-hour commute to school, which exposed her to homeless women who couldn't afford feminine hygiene products for their periods. 

READ MORE: How much does your period cost? Stellenbosch University calls for tampon tax to be eradicated

Speaking to InStyle, Nadya revealed that "hearing the experiences of the homeless women she met was a reality check."

As a survivor of an abusive relationship and rape in her teens, the Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement author, also felt the need to "find a cause to devote herself to." 

"... to maximise my potential and fight for the dignity of women around the world, I needed to set an example by taking care of myself and demanding more for myself in my relationships," she says.

Nadya regularly gives public talks to esteemed audiences, including TED Talks, and as a result told The Huffington Post the following;

The first time I ever said out loud that I was sexually assaulted, or said that I was raped, or suffered abuse, or that I was legally homeless? The first times I ever said those things were on stage in front of a crowd.

Now taking a break from Harvard University to dedicate her time fully to the menstrual movement, Nadya told The Huffington Post that her organisation is "constantly trying to figure out ways to get people to think about periods differently, and we’re constantly fighting for menstrual equity."

READ MORE: More than 52% of women in the workplace would rather ask their boss for a salary increase than admit they are on their period

PERIOD not only aims to subvert period stigmas and taboos through "service, education, and advocacy", but they are also reportedly "lobbying the U.S. Department of Education to provide free sanitary products in school bathrooms as well as offer all students comprehensive menstrual education before age 12."

According to InStyle, this devout change-maker has also previously run for city council in Cambridge, Massachusetts - her platform focused on tackling rapid gentrification. She didn’t win the election, but she managed to mobilise youth to vote in that region.

Nadya Okamoto's book Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement, is described as a necessary read that "aims to explain what menstruation is, shed light on the stigmas and resulting biases, and create a strategy to end the silence and prompt conversation about periods." 

Her leave of absence from Harvard is therefore also dedicated to promoting this book, which was released in October last year.

Nadya's only just begun her impactful journey on becoming one of the voices of this era of activism, as she's also said; “I never feel like I am doing enough. Every night when I go to sleep, I always feel like I can be doing more to reconcile the privilege I have in this world and doing more to fight for equity.”

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