PORTLAND, Ore. -- A young woman in Portland has made it her mission to fight for women's rights all over the world.
Nadya Okamoto, 18, is trying to make sure all women have access to feminine hygiene products, no matter their situation.
This week she was back home in Portland for the holidays after her first semester at Harvard.
But she's not your average college freshman. She's the Founder and Executive Director of Camions of Care. It’s a global nonprofit organization she started her junior year of high school.
“We're a youth-run global organization that strives to provide and celebrate menstrual hygiene through advocacy, education, and service,” said Okamoto.
Her organization puts together care packages with feminine hygiene products for women and girls who are in need living in the U.S. and around the world.
“In the last two years we've addressed over 51,000 periods through over 40 non-profit partners in 23 states and 13 countries,” she said.
Okamoto discovered her calling a couple years ago, in high school. At that time her mom was without a job. She and her family didn't have a permanent home for several months. The family moved in with some close friends.
For a teen going to private school, the change was tough. But it was transformative. On her roughly two-hour journey to school, she regularly saw the same homeless women. She got to know them.
“I collected stories of how homeless women were forced to use toilet paper, socks, brown paper grocery bags and other materials,” said Okamoto in the video posted on the Camions of Care website.
The menstrual movement is something she's become passionate about.
“Did you know that periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries,” she can be seen saying in the video.
But she says it’s not just developing countries she’s concerned about.
“Right now in 37 states of the United States, the sales tax includes menstrual products as a luxury item and what we’re trying to teach is that having your period is not a luxury. Menstrual hygiene is not a privilege. It's a right,” Okamoto said.
Okamoto is a young woman, who’s found her drive to make a difference.
“We're trying to create change for a more positive future, so who should have a say in that but the future leaders of the world,” she said.
For now, while she’s back in Portland her goal is more simple. She's taking in the holidays with her family and she’s grateful for a place she's able to call home.
Her organization distributes about 2000 care packages every month. They want to up that number to 3000 in 2017.
At this point, she said her organization has been trying to get more donations. They even have an event scheduled for January 5 to raise money.
“When you’re a group of 16-18 year olds, it’s hard to get big money sometimes,” laughed Okamoto.
She said her age isn’t holding her back.
“It doesn’t matter how old I am. The fact that I have a voice, and the fact that I have a mission and this passion, what better way to learn than through the actual experience,” she said.
Okamoto’s education at Harvard is being paid for through scholarships and financial aid. She wants to major in government, so she can help make larger-scale changes that will help more women.