Active Voice

Nadya Okamoto on Erasing Stigma and Finding Balance

The full-time Harvard student, founder, and published author had to learn things the hard way while working to uproot the taboos around women discussing their periods

Brianna Holt
GEN
Published in
5 min readApr 14, 2021
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; source photo: Mercedes Zapata

Nadya Okamoto has no problem talking about her period. Growing up in a household with a single mom and two sisters kept the floor open for all things menstruation. At age 16, during morning commutes to school, she would chat with homeless women who first introduced her to period poverty, a global issue affecting women and girls who don’t have access to sanitary products.

After researching the crisis more, Okamoto realized she had yet to hear about the issue because of the stigma surrounding menstrual cycles. It’s not widely known that 40 U.S. states tax tampon sales. Recognizing her privilege as a woman with access to hygienic and safe period products, Okamoto launched PERIOD, an organization fighting to end period poverty and stigma. But her advocacy didn’t end there. In 2018, she released her debut book, Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement, and two years later co-founded August, a community-centered lifestyle brand working to reimagine periods.

Despite being a full-time student at Harvard, Okamoto hasn’t slowed down in her activism. Between speaking engagements and organizing an online community of individuals who engage in thought-provoking conversations about periods, Okamoto doesn’t believe in focusing on just one goal at a time—or even finishing school before entering the workforce. The 23-year-old describes herself as a multihyphenate: Her side hustles don’t have to be put on pause for her day job or college studies.

I chatted with Okamoto to learn more about the ins and outs of organizing in a niche space with a large impact.

Brianna Holt: What does being an activist in this space mean to you?

Nadya Okamoto: To be honest, I have never identified as an activist. I would define activism as just pushing against the status quo. You don’t have to be working at it full-time to call yourself an activist or organizer. Even working at really incredible values-based companies…

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