Period. End of Sentence. is an inspiring Oscar-winning documentary short following the journey of women who established a pad-machine and created sanitary pads in Kathikhera, a rural town in India where period poverty and stigma exists.
The Pad Project is an organization started by Oakwood high school students and their English teacher Melissa Barton. They decided to create Period. End of Sentence., when they learned about Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man who constructed a pad-making machine to produce cost-efficient and accessible pads for menstruators in rural India. They were also inspired to sponsor the installation of a pad machine. To do so, they raised over $55,000 through bake sales, yogathons, two Kickstarter campaigns and fundraisers (The Pad Project, n.d).
The Pad Project partnered with Action India, a grassroots organization that fights for women’s rights and justice, and director Rayka Zehtabchi to film the documentary. After the production of Period. End of Sentence. The Pad Project still works with Action India to fund the placements of pad machines and educate citizens on menstrual health education in the Harpur district of India (The Pad Project, n.d).
The following are 4 lessons one can learn from watching the empowering documentary short Period. End of Sentence. :
1. Period poverty can prevent women from continuing their education and finding employment.
Periods are a large obstacle preventing women who face period poverty and stigma from going to school. The documentary features a woman who shares her experience of the hardship of going to school during her period. She studied until middle school, but “when [she] started having periods, it became really challenging”(Zehtabchi et al., 2018). It was difficult for her to manage her period while using a cloth instead of a pad during school. She stated, “the cloth I was using became so wet, I had to keep going out of my way to change it” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Additionally, when changing her cloth she would feel embarrassed and ashamed because men around her would stare. Eventually, her period became such a burden that she decided to drop out of school (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Unfortunately, many other women in India and around the world share a similar experience of missing school or ending their education early because of their period.
One of the positive outcomes of the installation of the pad machine is that it employs women in the village to make and sell pads. The group of female employees decided to call the pads “Fly Pads” because they want women to “rise and fly” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018).
2. Everyone should receive adequate menstrual health education to eliminate the taboo surrounding periods.
“Menstruation is the biggest taboo in my country”- Arunachalam Muruganantham (Zehtabchi et al., 2018).
The documentary highlights how the negative period stigma overwhelms and shames menstruators. In India and around the world, people are too embarrassed to talk about periods. The film begins with people in a small town in India being asked what a period is. Girls at school were too shy and ashamed to explain the process that happens to them every month. Many boys had no idea what periods were, one answered “I’ve heard of it, it’s a kind of illness right?” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Other women answered “babies are born because of it, that's all I know” and “It’s bad blood that comes out” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Overall, it is clear that people lack proper education about the menstrual cycle and/or they are too embarrassed to discuss it. If such topics were taught in school, more people would feel more comfortable talking about it and periods would be normalized.
3. When period products are not accessible to menstruators, their health is at risk.
Less than 20% of menstruators in India use pads (Gopalan, 2019). This is because pads are not easily accessible. Many women cannot afford pads, and if women are able to afford them, they feel uncomfortable to purchase pads at stores with men around. Thus, they decide to use substitutes like old cloth, rags, and newspapers (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). A woman in the documentary, Rekha, states that she uses “old cotton suits [she doesn't] use anymore” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Additionally, a health teacher in the village says that women use “whatever cloth they can find” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). When women do not use period products such as pads and tampons, they are at a greater risk of developing urinary tract infections, reproductive tract infections, fungal infections, yeast infections, rashes and more (Rodriguez, Sanchez, 2019). Arunachalam Muruganantham, the creator of the accessible and affordable pad machine, strives to make “India into a 100% pad-using country” so women can avoid negative health effects from their traditional methods (Zehtabchi et al., 2018).
4. When women see other women create transformative change, they are empowered to do the same.
Towards the end of the documentary, a principal at a school in rural India expresses how women “don’t know how much power they have, and what they can do” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). However, women can become more confident and empowered when they see other women succeed and break society’s gender-based stereotypes. The documentary features Sneha: a young woman who is working towards becoming a police officer. Sneha explained how she knows a girl from her village that works for the Delhi Police. She states that the woman “could have gotten married and remained unknown,” but because she chose to pursue a successful career as a police officer, “the whole village knows her name” (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Sneha is inspired by that woman because she was able to break gender-based stereotypes by earning a successful occupation. Thus, Sneha is more confident in her ability to become a police officer because that woman was able to do so. Moreover, after the creation of Fly Pads, other women in the village were willing to help out with the initiative because they were inspired to help create transformative change (Zehtabchi et al., 2018). Therefore, it is evident that more women will gain the confidence to create change when other women show that it is possible.
Gopalan, M. (2019). Less than 20% menstruating girls & women in India use pads. Here’s
how to overcome barriers. Retrieved from https://theprint.in
Rodriguez, L., Sanchez, E. (2019). Period Poverty: Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved from
The Pad Project. (n.d) Period. End of Sentence.. Retrieved from https://thepadproject.org
Zehtabchi, R. (Director), & Berton, M., Monga, G., Schiff, G., & Taback, L., Zehtabchi, R.
(Producers). (2018). Period. End of Sentence. [Motion picture on Netflix]. United States of America: Netflix.