The Period Movement.. For those of you who don’t know Nadya is the Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD, an organization she founded at the age of 16.
She began to pave the way for women and normalising menstruation, living by the words “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things that I cannot accept”.
Nadya is a 20 year old Harvard student, who upon realising that women in her neighbourhood couldn’t afford “luxury” items like tampons and pads, decided to do something about it.
The PERIOD movement is all about normalising menstruating, something that half of the world will do for on average 40 years, and yet there are still policies and taxes that prevent people from accessing necessary products.
Not only does this lead to an uncomfortable time of month, but it also leads to absenteeism from school/work and denies females basic human dignity and rights surrounding a complete NORMAL and HEALTHY biological function.
Below is an interview i did with Nadya, and with everything she is doing, i am so very grateful that she was able to take time out of her day to answer the below questions..
If you would like some more information about the topic, check out her website:
Or her Instagram here:
Where did the inspiration come to start the “period movement”?
I started PERIOD in 2014 after my family experienced a period of housing instability. During this time, I spoke with homeless women in downtown Portland and learned that they were using things like toilet paper, socks, and even cardboard in their attempts to manage their menstrual hygiene needs. Hearing the stories of these women catalyzed a perhaps unhealthy obsession with access to menstrual hygiene. I learned that periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries, and that period-related pain is the leading cause of absenteeism in the US. I learned about the “tampon tax” that, at the time, still existed in 40 states. It’s 2019, and yet, 35 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. It’s almost 2019 — 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.
How far have we come in terms of allowing all women to access the right “luxury” menstrual items and how far do we have to go?
When i started this organization in 2014, we were at 40 states that had the sales tax on period products. Now, it is 2019 and we’re at 35. So we have made some progress, but still over half of the US states still have period products taxes…
What was your experience like growing up and did you ever struggle with your period? Do you remember the first time you got it and how did your family react?
I was lucky and always had access to menstrual hygiene products. I used a menstrual cup which meant I didn’t have to worry about purchasing new products every time I had my period.
I wrote an article in teen vogue about my first period: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/my-first-period-nadya-okamoto
Why do you think it’s so important that all girls have access to sanitary products?
Lack of menstrual hygiene products is the number one reason girls miss school in developing countries and period related pain is a leading cause of absenteeism in the US. It adds up to missed classes, missed days and weeks at school. When menstruators don’t have access to the supplies they need, it puts them in a very vulnerable and disadvantaged position.
How many people on average in the US don’t have access to the right menstrual products? What is this impact?
– We don’t have an in-depth study on period poverty, but there have been some cool studies lately. Here’s one done by Always:
And one done on St Louis (think about what this means for other cities…)
How can having the right menstrual products change a woman life?
It is a matter of basic human dignity and rights surrounding a completely normal biological function.
In St. Louis, as many as two-thirds of women couldn’t afford to buy menstrual hygiene products, and 46% of women had to choose between food and menstrual hygiene products.
What do you think when people say “your so successful and doing such great things for someone so YOUNG”?
They assume that you can’t start your career/start taking action at a young age. We’re redefining success and fighting ageism.
How did you start up this nonprofit? Do you have experience with this sort of thing?
Not at all! I started when I was 16 and was just googling questions and asking friends/mentors for help.
Give us a rundown on what inspired Period Power the book and what is it about?
Period Power aims to explain what menstruation is, discuss the stigmas and resulting biases, and create a strategy to end the silence and prompt conversation about periods. It covers everything from what is happening biologically, to historical information about period products, and the political environment around menstruation. Things are changing. Conversations surrounding the tampon tax, period poverty, and menstrual equity are no longer taboo. I wanted to write a book to show that this movement was REAL and has a larger vision for social and systemic change — we have an agenda, and real info and thoughts behind why we’re doing this. The next generation can and will change the silence and status quo around menstruation and gender equality. My book is a call to action for today’s youth to become tomorrow’s change makers.
How can someone, no matter their age, get involved in social change? How did it begin for you?
Just go for it! No matter what it is you want to do, you are capable and your voice needs to be heard. If you want to do something, take action! I talk about this in my book- it is so important to empower young girls and make sure they know they are not alone. If you want to do something, take action! Follow your passion and find your why. Ask questions, find a mentor, find a community. For me, it just began with reaching out to people and getting involved in something I cared about and it grew from there.
If someone wants to be involved in this movement, what can they do?
Start a chapter! Or host a packing party!
Start talking about periods as NATURAL things! Have discussions about periods. The best way to help and get involved in the menstrual movement is to TALK ABOUT PERIODS. Have the book out and in the open – talk about how period products should be a necessity. Tell people period products should be free in all restrooms and made readily available. They should be treated just like toilet paper and paper towels in terms of access.
What can people do today to help normalise period talk and talk surrounding female sexuality?
Just start a conversation. The more we can start talking about these things as normal and natural, the better!
Period Con looks amazing! What is it all about?
PERIOD CON is an event for our chapter members and others to come and learn more about the fight for menstrual equity. We have panel discussions and seminars. It is a great opportunity for our chapters to get together to learn and network with each other.
What’s coming up for the Period movement and yourself in the future?
More period policy!