Period Activist Nadya Okamoto Is Turning Adversity Into Purpose During Quarantine
When you did your pandemic prep grocery run, did you remember to grab menstrual supplies? If you were quarantining with Nadya Okamoto, you wouldn’t forget. The 22-year-old Harvard junior, co-founder of menstrual activist group Period, and author of Period Power: A Manifesto For The Menstrual Movement has been advocating for menstrual justice since she was 16 years old, and her organization works to counter menstrual stigma and period poverty — inadequate access to menstrual supplies — via donations and raising awareness.
Okamoto’s first introduction to activism helped her through a dark time in her teens, when she was experiencing housing instability and domestic abuse in her own household. "It was really learning about period poverty that introduced me to activism, and from that my journey and work is something that’s really given me a lot of strength and healing," she says Now, that activism is helping her through the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine.
For Elite Daily, I spoke with Okamoto about all of the ways she’s taking care of herself as many states extend their shelter-in-place orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Her answers are part of our How I Take Care Of platform, which features interviews with all the celebs, TV stars, influencers, vloggers, TikTokers, musicians, and activists you love. If you’re wondering what’s keeping Okamoto grateful, optimistic, and focused, here’s what she said.
Who she’s quarantining with: Her mom, dads, sisters, and boyfriend (and her dog, Blue) in Portland, Oregon.
The food she craves: Luc Lac, a Vietnamese restaurant in Portland. "All of their bánh mì sandwiches are really good."
The audiobooks she’s been really into: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
The quarantine guest she didn’t expect: A guy she just started dating. "We were on a trip, and he lives in Mexico City. And then literally the day before we were supposed to fly out, the next leg of his trip was canceled. We’d only known each other for a few months. I texted my dads the day before and I was like, ‘Hey, can I in move in with you with this new person I’m seeing?’"
He’s quarantining with my whole family, but it’s been going really well. They love him and he’s been really helpful. Like, my sister’s making him do her chores.
Her activism is what’s getting her through the pandemic.
I feel my true purpose is what I do and what impact I want to have in this world. So, when I feel insecure I usually social media stalk or read stories from, or talk to, our chapter members of Period.
Learning their stories and learning about them is something I think really brings me confidence, because I think a lot of my insecurity has come from adversity in my life, whether it be domestic violence or experiencing sexual abuse. That’s made me feel so powerless and insecure in a lot of ways. And to be able to look at Period — and remember that is really where I feel my purpose — inspires me. That my impact might be making other people feel like they have that purpose, too.
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Today is #DenimDay?a day to raise awareness about sexual violence, and protest misconceptions around consent and “asking for it.” I grew up with sexual abuse in my own family, and was sexually assaulted in high school — and for so long I felt extremely alone. I convinced myself that even if I did speak up, no one would believe me…or worse, they would say it was my fault. TODAY AND EVERYDAY, we must remind survivors that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. And we must FIGHT TO END rape culture. . @guardian reports “domestic violence set to soar by 20% during global lockdown.” We must stand together and support survivors, especially during this #COVID19 #quarantine. See my IG story for some ways to help. . WHY DENIM? #DenimDay “began after a ruling by the Italian Supreme Court where a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have helped the person who raped her remove her jeans, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.” @peaceovrviolnce . #DenimDaySpeakOut @spacetospeakorg @maya.siegel
She’s using quarantine as way to reset and recenter.
Before quarantine I was actually traveling every day or multiple times a day. … In quarantine I think it’s been the time where I really recenter, and I don’t work. I’m able to think through what I’m working on, and come up with new ideas and check in with how I’m feeling. I think this time has really taught me to self-care. I’ve been going on runs once a day and working out for an hour a day. I think it [has been] kind of reaffirming that as a very religious self-care practice for me.
But it’s hard for her to get out of her own head, too.
I’m very obsessive about my work. I have really high anxiety, and of course depression is a journey and that’s been something I’ve struggled with my whole adolescence. It’s gotten a lot better. But for me, I do get really bogged down in work and all of the other calls, or partnerships, I’m responsible for. I think with audiobooks and running, I sort of tune out and I tune into like a story I’m really inspired by. It’s just a way to clear my mind.
She misses the human connection in her work.
So much of my work is traveling and speaking to large audiences, which I can’t do right now. The stage and speaking is such a home for me. That’s where I get a lot of my adrenaline. And then, so much of our work with Period is rallying and gathering in crowds and rallying on state house steps — and we’re not able to do that anymore. I miss the mere ability go out and gather in big groups of people.
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I really miss @periodmovement fam ? hope to reunite soon… #REPOST: PERIOD POWER ROUNDTABLE? Our founder Nadya Okamoto sat down with youth activists from the Period. Inc. network in New York City to talk about the #MenstrualMovement ? During the roundtable, they discussed periods across cultures, why addressing periods is important for gender equality, and what being a part of the #menstrualmovement means to them?❤️ Watch the video and comment what questions you'd want answered at your period roundtable?? @period.nyc
And doesn’t want anyone to forget about the big issues during quarantine.
Unemployment is a big issue people are talking about right now, and I would also say to remember food insecurity. People are talking about it right now, but we have to keep thinking about it beyond quarantine. Hunger in the U.S. has been exacerbated by quarantine, but it is absolutely going to keep being prevalent afterwards as well.
Family is what she’s most grateful for.
I’ve been out of the home for four years, and I think being able to have this time together is important. We’re in quarantine, but we’re in quarantine together. We’ve experienced housing and financial instability in the past, and it’s really reassuring to know, and I think a privilege to recognize, that we’re OK right now in quarantine. So many families aren’t.
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