Young Professionals Spotlight: Nadya Okamoto
It starts with finding what drives you and believing in your ability to make change happen
Nadya Okamoto grew up in Portland, OR. She is 20-years-old and is currently on a leave of absence from Harvard. At the age of 16, she founded an organization called PERIOD (period.org), which 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 they have addressed over 400,000 periods and registered over 230 campus chapters. In 2017, Nadya ran for office in Cambridge, MA. While she did not win, her campaign team made historic waves in mobilizing young people on the ground and at polls. Nadya recently published her debut book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement with publisher Simon & Schuster. Most recently, Nadya has become the Chief Brand Officer of Juv Consulting, a Generation Z marketing agency based in NYC.
Here’s an inside look of who she is, and what motivates her to do the work she does everyday.
1. You've been very open and vulnerable about your past, specifically with your experiences related to homelessness and sexual assault. Where did you first get the strength to talk about those issues?
As I shared more about my past, so did others in response to hearing my story. The stories and vulnerability of others is what continued to push me to share more of my own background.
2. What does the Period organization do? How did you start it? How did you secure funding to grow it? What’s next for it?
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 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.
PERIOD is a global youth-run nonprofit that strives to provide and celebrate menstrual hygiene through service, education, and advocacy — through the global distribution of period products to those in need, and engagement of youth leadership through a nationwide network of campus chapters. In the last three years, we have addressed over 390,000 periods and we have registered over 230 campus chapter at universities and high schools around the United States. We are now working to mobilize young leaders across the US to catalyze systemic change towards menstrual equity from their campuses to local and statewide policy.
3. What was your book writing process like? How does it feel to have it completed?
I wrote my book over winter break last year and it was terrifying -- I really struggled with imposter syndrome along the way and had to constantly remind myself that I deserved to be writing a book and people would be interested in it. Excited to have it done and hoping to promote it more moving forward on my gap year!
4. How can millennials and Gen Zers collaborate to create positive social impact for the future?
You really just have to do it. I talk about this a lot in my book, Period Power. It starts with finding what drives you and believing in your ability to make change happen. Find a community of like-minded people who want to help you make an impact. For me, the leadership conference I discussed in my book made a huge difference. Put yourself out there, find a mentor, ask questions, take the leap!
5. Who do you look to for inspiration?
Our PERIOD chapters! I am always inspired by the work that our chapters are doing in their own local communities and am motivated by the commitment that they have in this Menstrual Movement.
6. What do you have your heart set on doing/ accomplishing next year?
Right now, I’m super focused on PERIOD CON, our upcoming conference on January 26- 27 in NYC.
If you’re interested in attending this conference, click here for more information.