‘Period. End of Sentence’ shows how menstruation shame affects girls in rural India

Spoilers for Period. End of Sentence which should not ruin the film
One of my favorite unexpected Oscar speeches was from the filmmakers who won Best Documentary Short for Period. End of Sentence, Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton. Berton opened with the memorable line “I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything. I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar.” Zehtabchi ended with “A period should end a sentence not a girl’s education.” I’m rewatching their acceptance speech after seeing their film and am getting choked up a little.

Period. End of Sentence is a half hour documentary available on Netflix and it really wasn’t what I was expecting. It opens with young women in a rural village in India who describe how they have to hunt for dirty rags to use for menstrual pads and how they can’t take time during class to privately change their pads. They often drop out of school because of this, and due to the shame associated with menstruation. It sounds just awful and as a woman in a first world country it’s something I’ve never considered. Then the women get a special machine to manufacture very absorbent sanitary pads locally. They learn how to gather the raw materials and how to operate the machine. They manufacture and start to distribute the pads, earning money for themselves, continuing their education, and helping other young women stay in school. It’s an uplifting movie about the effects of local activism. Imagine the generations of women that will be affected by this simple change in how they’re able to manage their periods.

The true story behind how this movie came about is just as inspiring. Berton was a high school English teacher in Oakland, CA who learned about the invention of a machine which could bring sanitary pad manufacturing to local communities for just $12,000 per device. They fundraised to bring one to a village in India and filmed the results.

In 2006, an Indian engineer named Arunachalam Muruganatham won a national award for designing what’s known as “the pad machine,” which a few people can manually operate, and using sustainable products, create pads.

When Oakland High School English professor Melissa Berton and her then-student Helen Yenser found out about this while attending a U.N. conference, they decided they had to do something.

“It is such a taboo topic, and in the United States as well,” Melissa Berton, producer and English teacher told TODAY.

The two and a group of other high school students formed The Pad Project, partnering with an nonprofit organization called, Action India. Through bake sales, Kickstarter and “yogathons,” they raised enough money to purchase a pad machine ($12,000) and produce a documentary.

“Once we began to talk about it, the response has just been phenomenal, with just everybody all along saying, ‘What can we do to help?’” Berton said.

The Pad Project works to raise money for more pad machines and one year’s worth of supplies. After that, the profits made from selling pads sustains a microeconomy, employing residents and helping women in the area.

[From Today]

That’s such a great story and they just won an Oscar and got so much publicity for their charity! You can learn more about The Pad Project here.

On a personal note I hope I just had my last period. I’m getting an ablation in two weeks and I hope it works.



photos credit: WENN

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46 Responses to “‘Period. End of Sentence’ shows how menstruation shame affects girls in rural India”

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  1. Sara says:

    Good luck for your surgery!

    One of the questions that I find so hard to take into account is how our biological bodies are constantly used against us. I mean if you think about it the fact that many women can welcome and nurture an embryo, then a feotus, and then give birth to a baby, is astounding. Our periods and our uteri should be rewarded, praised and commended. Yet in so many cultures they are punch lines or objects of revulsion.

    • Val says:

      Thank you! I totally agree! This is part of what makes us women! AND then people want to shame us because we’re not mothers. Well, I can’t become pregnant if I’m not ovulating and having my period is part of the ovulation and fertility process but then we get shamed for having our period. It’s hypocritical nonsense. -_-

      • Haapa says:

        I completely agree that periods and uteri should be celebrated but I want to put out a gentle reminder that not all women have periods and uteri and not all people who have periods and uteri are women.

        Carry on!

  2. noodle says:

    the other day I was thinking about all these things we take for granted.
    the food is so abundant that we can deliberately starve ourselves and call it a fast.
    the hygiene products relatively cheap and easily available in every corner store that we can deliberately not use them and call it free bleeding and feel all powerful and roar.
    nothing wrong with that, just as long as we are aware of different parts of the world and their struggles.

    Thank you for the link to the pad project!

    • josephine says:

      As relatively cheap as those products are, they are still taxed and should not be. There are sales tax exceptions for products considered necessities, and hygiene products for periods have been excluded from that category.

      There is much work to be done in this country as well . . . .

      • boredblond says:

        I never even thought of this before..you’re absolutely right.

      • otaku fairy... says:


      • SamC says:

        THIS! I live in RI and we have a “tampon tax.” Eliminating it comes up almost every session and while it seems like a no brainer, legislation to eliminate has yet to get passed.

      • noodle says:

        Gotta move to Canada then, we don’t pay “tampon tax”.
        And funny that even India has eliminated the tax on the sanitary napkins /wikipedia/

      • Wow says:

        @Josephine I can remember a time not so long ago when I had $20 a week to eat after I paid my bills and I would actually go hungry the week of my period because half of my food money would go to tampons. At the time universities didn’t supply sanitary products if you were in need like they do now. I almost passed out over a cadaver in a lab from low blood sugar because I ran out of food early and hadn’t eaten anything in 36 hours mixed with cramps.

        The humiliation of the whole thing was a lot to handle on top of medical school. I blamed it on the pressure of doing well in my classes because I was too embarrassed to say “i can’t afford to eat until tomorrow because I had to spend half of my food budget on tampons. This happens almost every month.”

        Sanitary products in America, ESPECIALLY in high cost of living areas is not affordable and its not the $0.50 tax on the back end making it so.

    • Spicecake38 says:

      Don’t mean to thread jack here,or to give TMI,but since we’re talking female hygiene products,etc,I wanted to bring to light that there was a story/warning on the internet,and I think it was maybe part of the links on CB a while back?-Kotex U tampons were being recalled for breaking apart inside some women.The recall was voluntary (whatever that means).I paid it no mind,because I’ve never had a problem with Kotex.A few days ago I had to go to the ER because I had used one of these tampons,and it *got lost*inside of me,it had to be removed by a CNP,she said it was in pieces.Rather painful.
      I didn’t do anything,it just happened,so be vigilant when choosing the products you’re using.

      • Jb says:

        Spice, hope you’re doing well as that was one of my fears wearing tampons along with Toxic shock syndrome! I know overall they’re safe but for peace of mind I switched back to pads. Seriously tho I don’t mind them and pads have gotten slightly better than the huge diaper like ones when I was younger and my mom bought for me.

      • Spicecake38 says:

        Thanks @jb,toxic shock was a worry of mine too,and I began running a fever before going to ER.I am going to be wearing pads for a long time after that experience.What scares me the most is that I used the tampons my daughter uses,bc of light flow.She will also not be using those again for sure.

    • Phat girl says:

      Saw a young girl in the grocery store a couple of years ago opening a box of tampons and putting one in her bag. I almost cried out of pity and frustration from living in a world where a girl can’t afford a tampon. When she looked and saw me looking at her she was sooo embarrassed I could see it on her face. I just walked up and grabbed the biggest box of the brand she was taking and asked her did she use pads too. She shook her head and I asked was this enough or did she need some more. She just nodded and I could tell she was going to cry. I grabbed two more boxes and told her to come on before we both started balling and I paid for them and gave them to her without even saying a word. She had never spoke a word but you could see the gratitude as she waved and left. Now when I buy feminine products and see the occasional opened box of pads with one missing, I always buy that pack so the girl who took the pad out wasn’t really stealing, just borrowing from me.

  3. Gil says:

    I haven’t watched the film yet but I definitely will. It looks really interesting and I’m here for any women helping other women. Periods should not have any stigma and this kind of films help to increase awareness of the situation millions of girls have to go through.

    Ablation? Please tell us how it goes for you (of course if you fell like sharing). I’m thinking about getting it for myself. I am done with periods -_-b

    • tback says:

      I had an ablation in 2004 and it worked beautifully. I never had another period. The only (minimal) downside is now that I’m dealing with peri menopause & menopause, it is not possible to gauge where I am in the process because my cycles aren’t outwardly evident, but I got a great gynecologist and we are managing the symptoms well.

  4. Miss M says:

    I saw the documentary is streaming on Netflix. But didnt have a chance to watch it yet. But I definetely will!

  5. teehee says:

    My position is rather rough: taken as a whole, men are “dirtier” than women- they um… emit far more and far more often.
    Its just not RED.
    So somehow, we are worse, cos ours is red?

    Just using their own logic! I’m in favor rather that neither has to be called dirty. But if they gonna use such concepts of things being dirty then they ought to use those rules on THEMSELVES first, then they’d STFU cos they fail each one of their own tests.

  6. Ladyjax says:

    I have literally had my period since February second (*heavily*) due to a rather large fibroid that has grown significantly since I gave birth to my son 17 months ago. I cannot imagine not having access to sanitary products at a time like this. This has to be hard enough on girls with healthy systems, can you imagine how bad it is when menorrhagia enters the picture?

    • FHMom says:

      This has happened to me a few times. The doctor gave me a prescription to stop my period whenever it lasted more than 7 days. I can’t remember what it was, but it worked. Also, you might want to get your iron levels checked. I was anemic.

    • Trillion says:

      Glad we are sharing on this topic here because it’s important. Are you getting a procedure for your fibroid(s) or watching closely? Don’t mean to alarm, but I recently had persistent bleeding from fibroids for a few weeks. (I’d had an ablation two years ago, but the effect “wore off”, apparently). I was on vacation at the time and didn’t say anything to my husband/friends and just dealt with it quietly, as to not disrupt anything. Long story short, on the flight home from Europe to SF, I saturated 30 overnight pads. Yes, 30. Thank goodness I had the inclination to bring the entire package with me. Ended up losing over half my blood volume and I honestly thought I could die. Long recovery from that and just had a hysterectomy 2 days ago. Learn from my experience if applicable, ladies! Don’t take menorrhagia lightly (no pun intended).

  7. Coz' says:

    I watched the documentary this weekend. It is a must watch.
    A few weeks ago I was made aware how, even in my first world country, access to sanitary pads can be problematic for many girls and women, especially homeless women. I am so privileged that I never really had thought about it before.
    And the shame associated still associated to menstruation…
    I personnally talk about my periods as much as I can. Because you can bet if it were men who were bleeding 5 days a month that’s all the world would talk about 24/7.

  8. Evil Owl says:

    I watched this documentary on Netflix the other day with a growing sense of unease that this project was exploiting rural India in a shameless, voyeuristic way. This blogger summed up my discomfort, you might want to have a read: https://mythrispeaks.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/and-the-oscar-goes-to-period-end-of-sentence-for-use-of-false-data-misrepresentation-of-indian-women-and-violation-of-child-rights/

    • Coz' says:

      Thank you for sharing Evil Owl.

      ETA : I quickly tried to find more infos about the people behind the blog but didn’t find any. If you hve those infos, could you also share them? Thanks

    • me says:

      I’m Indian. I’ve been to India many times. I have stayed in the most rural villages where the power would go off all the time. They would have one small store in the whole village where you could buy soap, snacks, etc. They sold pads there, and for very cheap…like less than 50 cents for 20 pads. I remember because my mom needed some and my cousin ran to the village shop and got some for her…this was back in 1995.

      Of course those girls in India aren’t going to want to talk about menstruation when a camera crew just unexpectedly shows up in their class and makes them speak about it. The same would happen if you took cameras to any classroom in North America. You can’t point to a girl and make her stand up in front of her class and force her to talk about menstruation…then later say how girls in India are so “embarrassed” about it.

      • FitTB15 says:

        I took issue with the film targeting India and making it an “Indian problem.” Women and girls all over the world struggle with access to sanitary products. I work with an organization called Days For Girls that sends sustainable sanitary pads to women all over the world. You should look it up, I think they do a better job of explaining the affect a period has on women who don’t live with access to period products and plumbing.


      • me says:

        @ FitTB15

        Thanks for the link…great organization ! Yes, it’s a global issue, not just in India. My point was there are rural areas of India where pads are available and have been for a very long time.

      • Spicecake38 says:

        Yep,global problem even in countries you would not expect.My friend who is now an American citizen grew up in Armenia and Georgia,she said they had to find old rags,t shirts,socks to use and wash them out daily.

      • BabyJane says:

        Sure but there are also parts of India where houses have TVs but no toilets. India is extremely unevenly developed so comparing one region to another, or painting the entire country with a single brush, are both irresponsible tactics.

      • KidV says:

        I would assume even in the US there are women and girls who can’t afford pads. Or deodorant. Or clean clothes. Food and shelter always comes first.

      • me says:

        @ BabyJane

        That’s exactly my point. We are a very diverse group of people. India, in and of itself, is vastly different from village to village and city to city. This is mostly because those Indians that live outside of India tend to send money back home to help support their own villages. You can have one village be very developed while the one right next to it has NOTHING. The Indian government is the real problem. They don’t care so it’s up to us Indians that live outside of India to help.

  9. Call_me_al says:

    Thanks for highlighting this doc and issue! Best of luck on your surgery.

  10. Youngheart says:

    Thanks for highlighting this documentary and good luck for your surgery. Get well soon, it’s selfish of me, but I need my stories in the morning! lol I’m kidding, just get well soon.

  11. Canadian says:

    Excited to see this doc.

    Good luck on your ablation. I had one a couple years ago. Enjoy the great drugs! My wife had to keep me off the internet for a couple days, post anesthesia.

  12. ChillyWilly says:

    Yes to all of this! Thank you for this post CB. I am going to watch this for sure.
    I remember my worst fear in my adolescent years being a period accident in school. My friends always asking each other to check for blood on our jeans when getting up to go to our next class. The thought of a boy knowing I was on my period was mortifying.
    I mean, nobody wants to walk around with bloody clothes, but the shame was much deeper than that. It is yet another method used by men to keep women I under their thumbs.

  13. Lindy says:

    Good luck with the ablation, CB! I have a friend who did it I think about 8 months ago and is now really happy with it. Fair warning, she felt like the recovery was a little rougher than she’d been told but she thinks it’s totally worth it.

    And I’m watching this documentary this weekend!

  14. Beetlejuice says:

    Hey just wanted to throw this out there for anyone who reads this far. I’ve move from disposable sanitary items to cloth and those Period undies and my period has dropped from 5 days to 3 days. What’s in the didposabkes to make it heavier and last longer…I don’t know.

    • Spicecake38 says:

      I’m reading,and I’m glad you point this out,there are so many chemicals placed in food and drinks,but we forget to question materials that’s we place inside or in direct contact with our bodies.I will be trying this at least when I’m home during my next cycle.Thanks!

  15. Flying Fish says:

    Good luck on your surgery. I had a partial hysterectomy four years ago due to fibroids. It was the best thing…

  16. Flying Fish says:

    I love this story, thank you for posting this.

  17. Val says:

    Good luck on your ablation. I had one 6 years ago and it has been fantastic. Never had another drop of blood and my recovery time was less than 24 hours. I know someone much younger than me that did it and had a bad recovery and still gets her periods, so YMMV.

  18. Vox says:

    I love my husband so much for being enraged that female hygiene products are taxed. His outrage meant a lot to me and I’m grateful I’m married to a guy who is cool with being a feminist. This project is amazing and I’m definitely going to watch the documentary.