Empowering Women: The Pad Project

A short documentary about menstruation has made history. Period. End of Sentence is now an Oscar-winning short documentary concerning serious global public health issue—access to feminine hygiene products. Period. End of Sentence shines a light on the quiet revolution started by women in a rural village outside of Delhi. Periods are a taboo subject in India. These women are fighting the stigma around menstruation.

Access to feminine hygiene products, such as sanitary pads, are limited and expensive creating leading to preventable health disparities for women and girls. When having to choose between buying milk or sanitary pads, milk takes precedence, leaving women and girls to use leaves and old rags which may lead to infection. Not having sanitary pad leads has negative ramifications to a girl’s education. Without access to proper feminine products, some girls miss a day of school, while other girls drop out entirely. Education is a human right and keeping women and girls in school will support the entire country. If there is a 1% increase in girls enrolled in secondary schooling, India’s GDP will grow by $5.5 billion (The Pad Project).

A Girls Learn International chapter, based in Los Angeles, created a partnership with Action India to help make an impact in the lives of women and girls in India. They fundraised to purchase a machine to manufacture sanitary pads and delivered it to Kathikhera, a village outside of Delhi. They also collaborated with filmmakers Rayka Zehtabchi and Sam Davis to document the journey. This collaborative fundraising effort has allowed these women to help themselves and create a sustainable, self-sufficient livelihood.

Audiences are introduced to a number of women and girls in the village, who share shy and embarrassed looks while some women share stories about how their periods affect their lives. Sneba, young women aspiring to join the police force in Delhi. Her reason for wanting to join, to avoid marriage and remain independent. Shabana leads community meetings to educate women and girls of the dangers of not using washed pieces of cloth. With the other women. Sneba and Shabana take part in efforts to produce the sanitary pads. The women call the product ‘Fly’ because they want women ‘to soar’.  It is brilliant to see these women create a production scheme to ensure efficiency.

This new endeavor would not be possible without the inventor of the machine, Arunachalam Muruganantham. He has created the ‘low-cost sanitary napkin’ machine with the intention of increasing access to sanitary pads with the objective of 100% of India’s women and girls using sanitary pads. The current rate of use is less than 10%. It cost five cents to manufacture one pad.

When sanitary pad machine is installed, and the group of women learns to manufacture as well as market their product. This empowering endeavor has changed these women’s outlook and will help not only to create an inventory of sanitary pads but also to build a bridge to educate more women and girls as well as men and boys about periods and their endeavors to be self-sufficient.

This female-powered documentary will open one’s eyes to one of the difficulties faced by women and girls around the world. Access to sanitary pads should not intersect with the ability to attend school. Herstory was made at the 2019 Oscars, and it will enable more women to ‘Fly’ and find personal fulfillment. Period. End of Sentence is available to watch on Netflix.

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