'Period Girl'

A formerly homeless Harvard student is starting a conversation about menstruation

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 16: 2016 honoree Nadya Okamoto speaks onstage at the L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth Celebration 2016 on November 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for L'Oreal)

Nadya Okamoto, a first-year student at Harvard University, has become known as “period girl” around campus for her commitment to “menstrual equality.” Okamoto came to her cause in a unique way: After her family lost their home when she was in high school, she became legally homeless and had to move in with friends. At that time, she became close friends with women living at a homeless shelter near her bus stop. “I would regularly talk to them about their life stories and their experiences, and I started to ask what they found most challenging,” she explained to The Cut. “Their answer was often menstrual hygiene.” The women told her about the medical and personal complications that came with having rare access to pads and tampons, so after her family was able to move into a new permanent home,  she decided to launch Camions of Care, a nonprofit that delivers care packages of menstrual hygiene products to women in need around the world. “In the last two years, we have addressed over 31,000 periods through over 40 nonprofits and 23 states and 13 countries, and we now have about 60 campus chapters at universities and high schools around the United States and abroad,” Okamoto said. She sees her organization as fighting for gender equality and global development, as it’s a problem holding back more than half of the world. “By making sure that every single person in our population feels fully able to participate 100 percent of the time, regardless of a natural need — we say the menstrual movement is our push to make menstrual hygiene and menstruation a more open topic, and menstruation something that is recognized as beautiful and celebrated, rather than looked at and maybe felt with shame and self-consciousness and feelings of wanting to hide,” she said.

Read the full story at The Cut.

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