Inspiration

Teen Starts Company That Brings Menstrual Products To Women In Need

This teen is tackling a major need non-profits were failing to prioritize.

When it comes to donating goods for the homeless, most people give canned food or warm clothing. Although all those donations are very necessary, many women are missing other less-obvious, but equally important items, such as menstrual products. Women know that buying tampons isn’t cheap, and for women and girls in homeless shelters, these products aren’t readily available.

After seeing this firsthand in a shelter when she was 16, now 18-year-old Nadya Okamoto founded Camions of Care, a non-profit that provides menstrual products to women and children in need. Inspired by conversations she had in the shelter as a younger teen, Okamoto realized that a lot of women didn’t feel comfortable asking if these types of products were available, either out of embarrassment or fear. Instead, they were using toilet paper, pillowcases and even brown paper grocery bags to maintain their periods, and were experiencing a lot of discomfort in the process.

Because women weren’t inquiring about menstrual products, many non-profits didn’t prioritize them as a need for women. So Okamato swooped in and created Camions of Care to be the middleman between non-profits and shelters. In addition to providing feminine products to women in need, Okamoto also hopes to fight the stigma surrounding the topic of periods. She now runs Camions of Care as a global operation, with 40 non-profit partners in 23 states, 13 countries and at 60 campus chapters of universities and high schools across the U.S., she told Huffington Post.

Her global reach is important, as periods are the number one reason why girls miss school in developing countries. Learning about the impact of periods around the world has motivated Okamoto to keep growing Camions of Care. She is continuing to run the non-profit and raise funds, and she hopes to grow it to have active chapters in all 50 states.

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Okamoto currently attends Harvard and was just named a L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honoree for the beauty company’s 2016 Women of Worth celebration.