Currently, Federal agencies are not required to collect detailed data for Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Americans. This means that the diversity in the life experiences of our Asian-American Pacific Islander sisters is often not reported and considered in too many decisions that affect their lives. We OWE our Asian-American Pacific Islander sisters more than a passing mention. Today we celebrate our Asian-American Pacific Islander sisters making a difference in every facet of life!
In writing this post, I came to the harsh realization that I don’t know enough about Asian-American Pacific Islander women activists. I bet many of you are like me in that you grew up hearing stories and idolizing the women most like you. Or, like me you probably know the more ‘famous’ ones like Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance or Linda Sarsour, Co-Founder of the Women’s March. Not knowing the rich history of another racial or ethnic group should not stop us from reaching out to form alliances that will serve all of us. I don’t need to know all the facts about the culture and history of a group of women of color to welcome sisters from other races and ethnic groups to any table I set to achieve rights and better outcomes for all women of color!
I’ve recently become inspired by an activist sister named Nadya Okamoto. At 16, Nadya used her voice to create PERIOD, an organization whose goal is to make a conversation about menstruation as common as menstruation itself. PERIOD provides feminine hygiene products to women and girls who can’t afford them and is raising awareness about periods across multiple channels and events. Under Nadya’s capable leadership, PERIOD is now the largest youth-run nonprofit focused on women’s health!
What strikes me most about Nadya is how she’s taken a ‘taboo’ subject and is moving it to the mainstream by demonstrating how a normal biological function can further marginalize poor women and girls, limiting their opportunity and agency. It is unacceptable for women and girls—especially women and girls of color—to be victimized in this way. You may think victimization is too harsh a word to use in this context but consider that women who are incarcerated are often given poor quality sanitary napkins, and if they want tampons, they are sold at a considerable mark-up in prison commissaries. A recent federal law, the First Step Act, will help women incarcerated in Federal prisons, but women in local and state-run jails and prisons will likely still suffer from lack of access to proper feminine hygiene products.
Nadya’s advocacy on behalf of homeless and low-income women and girls deserves a serious shout-out. For today’s Mobilize Monday, consider a donation to PERIOD and help Nadya grow her influence and support of women and girls.
Stephanie McGencey, Founder/President