[dropcap]N[/dropcap]adya Okamoto’s life changed in an instant at the age of 15; her mother lost her job and her family became legally homeless, and at 16 she was hiding bruises made by an abusive partner. Though she was living in a situation a lot of young people never dream of experiencing, she realized her privilege when she heard the stories of struggles faced by other homeless women.
“It was right after we had gotten our apartment back, which I knew my mom worked so hard to make happen for us. But it was that experience of being at the women’s shelter alone, and hearing the stories of women who were in much worse situations than I was ― I had a complete privilege check.” She tells the Huffington Post.
Nadya’s experience with homelessness built upon her interest in serving those in need, which led her to declare it her mission to serve those less fortunate. Talking to women in far worse situations than her own, Nadya realized how challenging it is to have periods in a homeless situation. Inspired by these women’s stories, the now 18-year-old, along with Vincent Forand, created Camions of Care — a nonprofit organization that distributes feminine hygiene products to women in need.
The organization makes the public realize the complicated situation a lot of women live in even with something as natural as periods. “I felt guilty victimizing myself as I realized that I had never thought about the issue of menstrual hygiene, because it wasn’t a dire need for me… In talking to these women, I realized that if I didn’t have my menstrual cup, since my family struggled with financial stability, menstrual hygiene products would definitely have posed a significant additional expense,” says Nadya on the Camions of Care page.
Menstruation is still treated as a taboo topic, which made Nadya realize the importance of making hygiene more accessible for all women no matter their situation. As stated on the Camions of Care website, their aim is to continue addressing an average of 1,500 periods a month and continue expanding their network nationwide; they are also developing a comprehensive program that pushes systemic social change around menstrual equity.
New York City made history in June by being the first U.S. city to pass a legislative package to ensure access to menstrual products in public schools, shelters and corrections facilities.
Nadya is now a freshman at Harvard University, and is still working on a flourishing Camions of Care. She gave a TEDx Youth talk in January 2016 and was named L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Honoree for the campaign 2016 Women of Worth Celebration.
Nadya is an example of how important is to the younger population to take a stand and work in all the issues that affect our society to fight for the development of the society they live in, empowering and helping the people in need. If you want to help Camions of Care visit the website, where every $1 you donate to them will provide feminine hygiene products for a whole menstrual cycle.