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.
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.
photos credit: WENN