A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education. It’s a mission that Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton brought to life in their Oscar-winning documentary, and one shared by feminists worldwide. Access to sanitary products is a fundamental building block for gender equality, one that ensures that menstruation is not an inhibitor to women’s independence. Even here in the UK 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products, but look at the issue through the eyes of women in rural India and the statistics are considerably more damaging.
The documentary shares accounts from women who have given up their education or career ambitions because once a month they’re unable to leave their homes. It’s not just the shame and embarrassment attached to menstruation within the community, but the high risk of infection from using alternatives like rags or leaves. It’s painful to watch when the solution is so simple.
But change is a foot, with businesses as well as governments finally getting behind grassroots campaigns like The Pad Project; the initiative started by a group of high school students that led to the creation of the documentary. And thanks to campaigners like Amika George, the UK government has just today announced it will fund free sanitary products in schools as part of the Spring Statement. Three cheers for feminism!
In India, it’s entrepreneurial spirit that’s changing the narrative on menstruation. Period. End of Sentence follows a local business owner who uses his machinery to manufacture affordable, biodegradable pads from locally sourced materials. Better yet, his business model empowers women in the community to sell the products, helping to destigmatize periods and enable the women gain financial independence, fund secondary education and achieve their goals.
It is through the combined work of motivated individuals, networks of empowered women and society at large rejecting the status quo that we can build a better, more equal future. One pad at a time. As the inventor of the machine, Murugananthem says: “The strongest creature on earth is not the elephant, not the tiger, but the girl”. You can’t argue with that.
Find out more about The Pad Project here and head over to Netflix to watch the documentary.