At the 2019 Academy Awards last month, the award for Best Documentary Short Subject went to “Period. End of Sentence.” The twenty-six minute film takes place in the Haipur District of India, about sixty kilometers outside of New Delhi.
Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Melissa Berton, the film starts by highlighting how many people, both men and women, don’t really understand menstruation. They don’t know what it means or what causes it, and people are hesitant to talk about it. Girls and women use whatever spare cloth they can find to absorb their periods, which is not always sanitary or safe.
“Menstruation is the biggest taboo in my country,” says Arunachalam Muruganantham. He invented low-cost machinery to make sanitary napkins, commonly referred to as pads. His goal is for one hundred percent of women to be using pads in India. Currently, less than ten percent do. Many women haven’t heard of or seen pads before, and don’t know how to use them.
Some of the women in the community learn how to make the pads, and work 9 AM to 5 PM every day to make and package them.
Their next task is to sell them. Some of the women go to shops to try to get them sold there, but the shopkeepers are all men and don’t seem interested.
Some of the women go out meeting women in their homes or in small groups, showing them their pads compared to some of the name brand ones.
The pad the women make, which they have named “Fly,” is bulky but very absorbent. The other pads look sleeker and nice, but don’t absorb much and leak. The women from Fly tell the listening women that their pad may be ugly, but it works well, like an unattractive man who works hard and makes a good husband, eliciting laughter from the group of women.
The women are successful in selling the pads in groups like this and door to door, though it takes time.
Many women don’t like to buy pads from the store, finding it embarrassing with men running the stores and many men hanging around at or near the stores.
Some of the money earned from the sales of the pad will go to buying materials for the next round of production, with the rest going to the women’s pay.
One woman who works making the pads says that her husband now respects her more, since she is working and earning money.
The woman who work at Fly have been empowered by the project, and some share their dreams for the future.
Says Muruganantham, the inventor of the machines: “The strongest creation created by God in the world: not the lion, not elephant, not the tiger. The girl.”
The start-up funds to buy the machines and first round of supplies needed for manufacture came from the Oakwood School in Los Angeles, and now The Pad Project continues the work in additional communities, with donations through their website.
This film is short, humorous, educational, and inspirational. Everyone should watch it when they have a few minutes, and maybe make a contribution to the project to get machines installed in more communities, giving more women paying jobs and even more access to affordable, locally-made, feminine hygiene products.
“Period. End of Sentence” is currently available to screen on Netflix.