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Conversation with Nadya Okamoto: Her fight to end period poverty

Nadya Okamoto, 21-years-old Harvard student, and her fight to end period poverty in the U.S.

I’ve been following Nadya Okamoto for about two years. She’s not unlike many other Ivy League students who quit working or volunteering for the non-profit they founded back when they were in high school. Nadya is serious about her period movement, and she has showed us her unchangeable values through her actions. When we are all ashamed to even say the word “Period” out loud, Nadya is doing the work to destigmatize period and end period poverty in America. Nadya is an inspiration of Gen Z, because for her, fighting for the issues she truly cares means so much more than conforming or blindly chasing after prestige.

Nadya Okamoto, 21-years-old Harvard student on a leave of absence. She is the Founder and Executive Director of PERIOD (period.org), the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health, and one of the fastest growing ones in the United States.

1. What are you studying at Harvard? What are your favorite classes that you have taken so far? Are the classes that you are taking helping you see the world differently? Would you say your academic career at Harvard goes hand in hand with your role of being CEO at Period?

I’m studying social studies in school, which I realize sounds like 8th grade geography, but it’s really a complicated mix of a lot of humanities! My favorite class I took was Humanities 10 in my freshman year – we read the most incredible books with incredible professors, some of whom I had been following for years. No…I don’t think my academic career has helped me with leading PERIOD. It has made me realize that I love learning in the classroom, but in a very different way than I love learning through doing in my leadership of ventures.

2. In your recent posts, you talked about growth being stagnant at Period. What are some things you do when your organization does not grow at the pace you hope it does?

I hustle more. If things feel like they’re not moving, I have more phone calls everyday, I hustle more to speak at different conferences and to audiences I haven’t met before, and to bring our impact ambitions to life.

3.    How do you source talent for Period? Hiring is always the most difficult process – how do you manage to do it so well?

Yes…it is, and it is something we are always still trying to improve upon. We really try to source from our existing network of student leaders because they are already working in the movement out of passion for the cause.

4.    I saw that Period grew very quickly after you entered Harvard. Tell me, how were you able to achieve growth at such a fast and big scale? How do you keep your members motivated and inspired?

We rebranded the organization in 2017 from our original name/brand of Camions of Care, and I think that made a world of a difference. With a stronger brand, we could exist in a more cohesive way on social media as well, and that truly enabled us to grow especially with social media.

5.    What are the biggest challenges of running Period? What have you learned from those challenges?

Balance, especially with my social life. I have learned that finding balance is a never-ending journey and I still have a long ways to go…

6.    It’s so inspiring that Period has its own office as well as several full-time employees. Where is period getting its source of revenue? How do you manage to sustain the NGO financially? 

Thank you! Individual donors, grants, corporate sponsors, event sponsors…

7. A lot of elite students today enter investment banking and consulting instead of pursuing what they truly love, due to peer and societal pressure. What do you think about that and what advice do you have for those who have a dream other than conform to pre-professional culture? 

That’s definitely true, especially at a place like Harvard. I would say, start early! Try out careers if you’re curious, you don’t have to wait! Get internships, start businesses, you have nothing to loose in your student years!

8. What advice do you have for college students who want to start their own venture or non-profit organization? 

Just get started! Don’t spend years worrying about what the first step is…just take a first step!

If you want to get involved, visit ​period.org​! Connect on social @periodmovement and @nadyaokamoto

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