Nadya Okamoto founded the nonprofit PERIOD – a youth-led "menstrual movement" dedicated to improving access to historical products – while she was still in high school. And today, the 21-year-old announces a new one-year campaign to tackle the issue of period poverty.
To put it simply: Period Poverty refers to the fact that not everyone has access to the products needed for menstruation because of a combination of cost and stigma. "Women living in poverty or homelessness are struggling every month to find menstrual products," Okamoto writes in a memo that deals with the project. "The discriminatory taxation of these products only aggravates the problem."
The new campaign, which aims to build a nationwide coalition and promote political change, begins today with the launch of Menstrual Manifesto Petition and the announcement of the first nationwide rallies. From there, the campaign with the first National Day of the Period (19459004) will begin on 19 October 2019 with rallies across the country. This is followed by a nationwide fundraiser for periodic deliveries, legislative meetings in January and February 2020 and activist training workshops in May.
This is not just a talk – Okamoto made it clear that the National Period Day is a big event movement and not just their organization. In fact, she hopes the campaign will help drive two clear political demands that significantly improve access to menstrual items in schools, shelters and prisons, and eliminate pad tax in the 34 remaining states.
"Our end goal is to make systemic changes and change politics," Okamoto told SELF.
"The immediate solution is the distribution of products from that time," she says. "The bridge between service and systemic change is cultural change for me. Then we can bring about a political change. "
Okamoto, who founded PERIOD 2014 on the basis that menstrual health is a human right and poverty at that time is a national problem, devoted herself to menstrual replacement in the last five years. After running for the Cambridge City Council in 2017, Okamoto published her book Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement in the fall of 2018. Since its inception, PERIOD has had a nationwide network of over 400 chapters and more than 700,000 time periods.
She ran for the city council and helped her see the big picture. Finally, she urged her to expand the role of PERIOD. "It has taught me the power of politics – compared to the direct service work done by nonprofits," she explains. Previously, PERIOD had focused on the distribution of products.
Then she had a wake-up call: "When PERIOD has disappeared, [would have] we have not made long-term changes beyond the young people we inspired. The distribution would be a band-aid fix. The way we need to make long-term system changes is to change the system ourselves.
The first push in the legislation: free tampons at all public schools.
One goal of this one-year campaign is to improve legislation Free tampons in all public schools, which PERIOD is already leading nationwide. And focusing on schools makes sense, Okamoto explains, because "we have the perfect audience – we're all students."
At the high school level, PERIOD launched a petition in Beaverton, OR for menstrual hygiene products to bring to their schools and spoke in front of the Board of Education in Greenwich, CT . The members of the PERIOD chapter have urged period productions at at UC Davis at the University of Washington and at UT Austin to name but a few. And the student from Yale Sophie Ascheim produced an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary titled " Period. End of the prison sentence. "
And on January 28, 2019, during a DC Action Day many activists called on Betsy DeVos to take action on menstrual equality in schools . The letter signed by both Okamoto and Maria Molland, CEO of THINX states that Devos has the profound responsibility of being 'safe and trustworthy' & # 39; Environments for students around the world to create nation ", which includes access to historical products.
When it comes to laws that have already been passed on access to tampons in schools in California, some (but not all) grade 6-12 schools are required Free tampons in all gender-neutral bathrooms and in the girls' bathrooms. And in Illinois New York and most recently in New Hampshire all grades 6-12 schools must do the same. Similarly, the city Boston recently announced that it will launch a pilot program with free menstrual products at its public schools this fall. Portland Public Schools are now granting $ 25,000 a year for menstruation products and a number of other districts are in talks to implement similar policies.
The second legislative push: the nationwide abolition of the "tampon tax .
The "tampon tax" refers to a state sales tax that would be waived if menstrual products were legally considered "medical necessities". Although the exact regulations may vary from state to state, non-prescription medicines and medical devices such as dandruff shampoo, ibuprofen and cough drops are generally considered medical supplies and therefore exempt from legal sales tax. However, this is not the case in 34 states.
PERIOD advocates have raised awareness of the "tampon tax" and advocated removing it. At Ohio State University students spoke with legislators such as the Ohio State Representative Brigid Kelly on the subject. These students also worked with government officials to introduce a bill that focuses on the elimination of sales tax products in Ohio. The law was passed in Ohio House but quit in the Senate, according to Okamoto. Okamoto says lawyers in Ohio are "working to reintroduce it soon."
While states such as Nevada, New York, Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. have already abolished their "tampon tax", many states do not. Although the legislature introduced 22 other states bills to abolish the tax, these efforts have not yet been successful. Nevertheless, Rhode Island could be next on the list .
"We can not finish this tax yet because of a lack of knowledge. The majority of the legislators I'm talking about have not heard anything about padlock tax. They'll tell me frankly that this is the first time they hear about it, "says Okamoto.
To participate in the campaign.
On National Period Day, for which PERIOD has already published 12 rally events, Okamoto has planned a full action plan in 11 different states on Facebook (with ten other states confirmed for rallies) can get involved.
Starting this fall, PERIOD will hold nationwide fundraisers to collect menstrual items for people in need. Okamoto hopes the winter will bring meetings with state lawmakers to share sample accounts and lobby days on Capitol Hill. And in March, PERIOD will hold its third PERIODCON Conference a summit meeting where menstrual leaders and proponents conduct programs and events for two days.
"This is the first nationally coordinated grassroots campaign over periods," says Okamoto. "It's not just me and my co-founders who get up and do that, we're not just a couple of teenagers who are taking care of it, it's grown into almost 500 chapters that are actively involved in all 50 states to create local young leaders to gain the credibility and recognition of their work in this movement. "