91st Academy Awards: A Film About Menstruation Set In Rural India, Wins An Oscar

“Period: End Of Sentence”, a documentary on menstruation created history by winning the best documentary award at 91st Academy Award on 25th Feb 2019. Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi, produced by Melissa Berton and co-produced by Guneet Monga, the film is based on Indian Women who fight the stigma surrounding menstruation and how they overcome their problems and challenges. Sneha, a key speaker in the documentary was also present in Los Angeles during the historic win.

The film featured on Netflix covers the lives of young girls in Hapur village in Uttar Pradesh and the difficulties they face. The fact that Period is considered a disease even today shows how far we have reached on the scale of civilisation. Talking about women independence, and how they are unable to achieve their dream and some are even forced to give up their education, the documentary moves to the story of women who try to sell biodegradable sanitary pads under the company name ‘FLY’ in the village. From producing to marketing, the women accomplish a difficult task with a collective effort. The film 'Period  ...' was created by Oakwood High School students, who had also founded ‘The Pad Project, a non-profit organization, which aims to fight the stigma of menstruation, starting in a rural village outside of Delhi, India.

“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything,” said director Rayka Zehtabchi, while receiving the award. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar,” she continued.

Talking about the bagging Oscar to IANS, producer Guneet Monga expressed her concern on the issue.

“ I'd love the Education Ministry to get involved and take this film from school to school, college to college and have an educational programme. That would be a dream come true and that is when a shift or change will happen," she added.

Film on Menstruation set in Rural India titled Period: end of Sentence wins Oscar

Mandakini Kakar, who worked on the ground in Hapur living the life and nurturing the stories of reluctant women, says that there's a world of difference in the village which she visited two years ago and just 15 days ago. She identified this change as phenomenal.

The machine to produce these biodegradable pads was invented by a Tamil Nadu based activist Arunachalam Muruganantham. Padman, a 2018 Bollywood film starring Akshay Kumar talks about the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham and how he started this machine which produces the sanitary pad in a very minimal rate, the machine which is now installed in 23 states of India is making it easy for women all around the nation to pay attention to their menstrual hygiene.

The film's Oscar win has already caught the attention of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has acknowledged its effort to spotlight Hapur's 'pad women', who have gradually learnt to break the stereotype about menstruation. Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi is glad the film talks about how a "period should end a sentence, not a girl's education".

The Oscar win not only brought the attention of people towards menstruation but has also put the little know village of Hapur on the world map offering kudos to women in the village who are trying to make a difference. Rakhi, the manager of the pad-making unit in the village, is affirmative to change the way menstruation is being considered in small villages.

“Earlier girls used to drop out of school once their periods started because it became embarrassing for them when their clothes got stained. I was so shy that I couldn’t even tell my father that I worked at a pad-making unit and my mother had to tell this to him. But now, menstruation is no more a taboo in the village. People talk about it and don’t make fun anymore. Women of age 18 to 32 are working in the factory and earn 2500 a month," she asserts. 

Their attempt to empower young girls and ensuring their safety is tremendous. They have become an example for women all around India. Though an Oscar win is not enough it is definitely a big leap forward.

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