Nadya Okamoto USA, 19

project: period

Theme Song: “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John

At 19 years old, Nadya has overcome more hardships than many face in a lifetime. While experiencing legal homelessness for several months, she had a two-hour commute to high school on public transportation. Simultaneously trapped in an abusive relationship, she spent a weekend in a battered women’s shelter. From her daily commute and stay at the shelter, Nadya formed strong bonds with women who were in far worse situations than her own. Their stories awoke her to the spectrum of privilege we live in, particularly the disgust, shame and sheer misery that menstrual cycles mean for women in poverty. Worldwide, periods are the number one reason girls miss school, forcing many to drop out entirely, and experience early marriage, female genital mutilation and social isolation.

Nadya founded Camions of Care to tackle the issue of girls and the consequences of their menstruation cycles by providing hygiene care packages. They have addressed more than 73,000 periods in nine countries, and by the end of 2017 their care package distribution will increase to 3,000 per month. Nadya hopes that if they prevent girls from missing out on their education, they will prevent the consequences that perpetuate gender inequality. With more than 2,200 volunteers, 55 chapters and 40 nonprofit partners, the Camions of Care network continues to expand. In her freshman year at Harvard, Nadya plans to establish at least one chapter in every U.S. state by the end of the year.