If you haven’t heard of Nadya Okamoto, then allow me to introduce you to a truly inspiring individual. The 18-year-old previously attended private school and currently attends Harvard University, while also running the global operation, Camions of Care. The other important aspect about her is that for a period of her life, she was homeless.
Okamoto and her mother fell on hard times and consequently lived in a women’s shelter while Okamoto was attending private school on scholarship. In a wonderfully surprising turn of events, however, what came out of all of this was a realization of privilege for Okamoto and the start of Camions of Care.
Camions of Care is a global operation which provides menstrual products to women in need, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend school or work. The organization aims to manage and celebrate menstrual hygiene in a way that is beneficial to women across the world who are shamed or disadvantaged because of menstruation.
Between Okamoto’s two-hour commute to school and her time spent at the shelter, she spent a lot of time talking to other women in similar and often worse situations. It was through this that she noticed the need for menstrual products and education among homeless women everywhere.
From living with so many other women in worse situations than her own, Okamoto found that she didn’t have it that hard. This brought about her desire to help the other women in any way that she could. Okamoto didn’t have a home, but she still found a way to give to others.
This powerful message is a testament to what any one of us can achieve if we choose to. Okamoto has built a company that is expanding to help women throughout the world. According to globalcitizen.org, “Girls miss an average of 4.9 days of school each month because of lack of access to adequate menstrual hygiene products.” This isn’t everyone’s favorite topic to discuss and I understand that, but Okamoto saw that struggle and the need that it was causing and is changing the way we address it.
By providing products for these women, Okamoto is eliminating the circumstances that keep them from their work or education. By providing education about menstruation to disadvantaged parts of the world, Okamoto is helping young women learn the self-care information that they need to stay healthy. By providing a new, uninhibited way of talking about menstruation, Okamoto is paving the way for future generations of women who aren’t embarrassed or afraid to voice their needs.
Even in a state of homelessness, Okamoto used the privilege she did have to start a company that helps women worldwide. She is making important changes for the education and conversation regarding feminine hygiene, and she is filling a major need. Okamoto hasn’t backed down from doing what she felt called to do, regardless of any misfortunes that she has faced.
There is always a reason to back down from a challenge, and we often succumb to it. However, it is empowering to see women like Okamoto representing the alternate narrative by taken action — no excuses. I hope that more women can learn from the stories of Okamoto and others who have worked to make this world a better, easier place to live. The next time you feel motivated to do something, I hope you can draw inspiration from Okamoto’s story and that you go after it with all that you have.
For more information on Camions of Care, click here!