“Period. End of Sentence” Tackles Cultural Stigma Attached to Menstruation

Oscar-Winning Documentary Addresses Why Women Should Not Be Treated As A Dirty Entity During Their Periods

“Period. End of Sentence”, a 25-minute documentary told by Iranian-American film director Rayka Zehtabchi addresses the cultural stigma attached to menstruation in Kathikhera, a rural village in India. Aiming to bring awareness to the disadvantages of other women around the world, Zehtabchi focuses on telling the story about these women and how they produce and sell thousands of pads to the local women in an effort to improve feminine hygiene.

Most women in Kathikhera do not have access to sanitary pads or menstrual products which prevents them from staying in education and barred from worshipping in temples. In an interview with the American Film Institute, Zehtabchi explains the inspiration behind her story: “I was never hindered by my period because I always had pads and tampons at my disposal, growing up in California. However, so many women around the world don’t have access to those basic household items. That broke my heart”.

Dasra, India’s leading nongovernmental organization, reported that 200 million girls are not taught basic menstrual hygiene and nearly 90 percent of women use alternatives to sanitary napkins and tampons (such as old fabric, rags, sand, ash, wood shavings, and newspapers). The topic of menstruation is so taboo in India that during production, Zehtabchi realized that the majority of women they talked to had never even learnt why they bled every month. Young men who were also interviewed revealed that they did not know what a “period” even meant and thought “menstruation” was an illness that mostly affected girls.

The team behind “Period. End of Sentence”, has recently formed The Pad Project, a non-profit corporation that serves as a resource for people looking to purchase and distribute pad machines worldwide. Rather then just donating pads to communities in need, starting a sanitary pad business employs the women and allows them to gain independence and educate other women on the feminine hygiene.

The documentary received an Oscar, the award for Best Short Documentary, as well; Zehtabchi is also the first Iranian-American woman to have won an Oscar. In the words of Zehtabchi, “Being a woman is enough of a reason to be inspired and want to take action”.  

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