Editor’s note: This the third in a four-part series of interviews between expert panelists for the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Today’s interviewer, Kate Garvey, is the co-founder of Project Everyone, which aims to make progress in achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Amika George is a 21-year-old activist who, after learning about the lack of awareness around period poverty, started a movement in the UK that turned into a tidal wave of change. She went on to write a book about the lessons she learned from that experience…all before graduating from university.
Her commitment to this issue made her the perfect fit to be an expert panelist for the Google.org Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. Along with 27 other incredible women, Amika and I have the honor of helping select the grantees — nonprofits and social enterprises that are leading the way to a better future for women and girls — who will be announced later this year.
Until then, here’s my conversation with Amika George.
What drove you to become an activist?
At first I didn’t identify as an activist because I didn’t know what it meant and it felt like a loaded term. But the issue of period poverty — when people who menstruate can’t afford period products — made me think more critically about activism. I started Free Periods in 2017 after learning about girls in the UK who miss a week of school every month as a result of period poverty. I was shocked and upset by the reality of it.
Free Periods began online as a petition and branched out to organizing protests and events. Our efforts led to a legal case that required schools to provide free menstrual products. Now we can confidently say that every student in England can get the products they need.
What is one lesson about activism that you would pass on?
For many marginalized people, or even people who aren’t old enough to vote, activism is how you can have an impact in a productive way. For young people, the issues we’re most scared of — structural racism, the climate crisis, widening gender inequality — aren’t always prioritized or reported on. You need your own way to have an impact and shape our future.