March Book Club: “PERIOD POWER”
NADYA OKAMOTO: PERIOD POWER
Nadya Okamoto’s book Period Power, dubbed ‘a manifesto for the menstrual movement’, is a powerful, impassioned and important book chronicling not only Nadya’s personal experience as a young womxn growing up learning about periods through a skewed lens of shame and stigma, but speaks to a great number of womxn’s experiences with their monthly cycle.
This month, we were lucky enough to talk to Nadya (who is hosting an Instagram takeover on our stories as we speak) - so NYC intern and all around rockstar Sahiti took some time to interview Nadya on her work.
WATCH OUT, NADYA OKAMOTO IS CHANGING THE WORLD!
At the age of 16, Nadya Okamoto founded PERIOD, an organization geared to serve, educate and advocate about the menstrual hygiene and ways to dismantle the stigma around periods. On top of being a boss lady in the nonprofit world at age 20, Nadya is a leading speaker about the power of Generation Z, youth activism, and overcoming adversity. While you are already stunned with her work already, we are not done bragging about her yet. Nadya recently published her first book titled “Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement”, to mobilize the Menstrual Movement and is currently on leave from Harvard College to focus on scaling PERIOD.
In my community, I am the president of the Women’s Empowerment Club at Bayside High School Queens, New York, aiming to empower young women through discussions, action, and learning. Through the process of learning about what I learned to be the menstrual movement, Nadya’s work followed me and stood out to be critical in mine. Nadya Okamoto’s work in activism to her public speaking on the stages of TED and PERIOD CON changed my perspective of how powerful young people can be in today's world. Having inspirational figures like Nadya who are changing the narrative of what it means to menstruate and dismantle the stigma and negative connotation periods have is so so powerful. Thanks to Girlvana, I was able to interview Nadya Okamoto with my own curious questions of how she came to such a boss woman!.
SAHITI: What were some obstacles you had when starting Period at a young age and what were some ways you came over them?
NADYA: There were many challenges that we faced when we were just getting started. As a result of being 16-years-old, we had a lot of doors closed in our faces before we could even pitch our ideas -- we knew that we had to prove ourselves before people would really take us and our ambition so seriously. That being said, the biggest challenge that we faced was self-doubt. There were so many times that Vincent and I were feeling overwhelmed and let the pushback from others get to our confidence...and that was the toughest battle that we had to fight. We had to gain confidence and resilience at young age so that we could fight for this cause we were so truly passionate about.
SAHITI: What would you say are the best tactics to talk to adults/administration and all genders about learning about how they can all take upon the work of the menstrual movement?
NADYA: I think that the best thing to do to start advocating for others to join the menstrual movement is to (1) make sure you know what you are talking about. Do your research first so that you can explain what menstruation is, what period poverty is and why it matters, and why you care so deeply about it as well; (2) come into all of those conversations with a drive to also listen and learn. Everyone on our team, including me, understands that we don’t have all of the answers, and we are always hoping to learn from others; and (3) meet people where they are at. Ask them questions about their own experience, and from there find a way to make the effects of the menstrual movement personal to them.
SAHITI: How are some ways you educated yourself/ found your focus in your activism work?
NADYA: Honestly, it all started with a lot of google searches. At the beginning I was really making it up as I went along and all we were trying to do was get menstrual hygiene products into the hands of the people who needed them. Our larger mission really started to come together when we realized that other people were interested in our cause and wanted to help. Since then we have grown to over 250 chapters and served over 440,000 periods.
SAHITI: How can we bring more awareness to the period movement within our community in actionable acts?
NADYA: Have discussions about periods -- it’s a simple solution! 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.
SAHITI: When bringing together PERIOD, what would you say were some of your most cherished moments?
NADYA: Always PERIOD CON, our global conference. We held our first one in November 2017, and just had one for two days in NYC in January 2019. We gather hundreds of chapter members from all over the world for a multi-day conference to celebrate and bond over our shared passion for this cause. 6) If you were to change anything you did for PERIOD when you were 16, what would it be - Try to stay balanced! I quickly got very obsessed with my work, and while that obviously helped PERIOD grow so quickly -- it also hurt my health in many ways and was really hard on my mental health. I was really exhausted within a couple years and to be honest, am still very much learning how to be more balanced.
SAHITI: What are some things you do to keep yourself motivated and refrain yourself from burnout?
NADYA: It is all about balance. You have to listen to your body and make time for self care when you need it. This can be as simple as making sure you get enough sleep. I like to make sure I find time to work out on a regular basis.
How are you so awesome?
OMG, y’all are too sweet… tbh, I still get so awkward (thankful, of course) when people give me compliments like this, because on the inside I just feel like my quirky and dorky self. I don’t think of myself as awesome -- just a workaholic consumed with doing work that I am truly passionate about… but I am FLATTERED and so TOUCHED by your kind words. Here’s to a year of embracing all of our AWESOMENESS!
If you find yourselves wanting to discuss the book as you go, just tag us @girlvanayoga in a story or post, slide into our DMs, email us or share your ideas with friends. At the end of the month, we’ll share some of our own ideas and thoughts, and try our hand at answering any questions you might have.
Written by our amazing NYC intern Sahiti, radical womxn of colour, crazy talented and highly intellectual teen and President of the Women’s Empowerment Club at her high school in New York.