For the first time ever, a documentary about women’s periods has taken home an Oscar and, considering literally half of the global population will at some point in their lifetime experience a period, it should come as no surprise that menstruation sees normalization in 2019, amirite?
The 26-minute Netflix flick details what happens in a rural village outside of Delhi, India, when a sanitation pad machine is made accessible to women and young girls who might otherwise skip or drop out of school because of menstruation stigma and a lack of access to feminine hygiene products. Here, the women learn to make and market their pads.
“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything,” said director Rayka Zehtabchi during her speech. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!”
Working in collaboration with the Pad Project, an organization that provides hygiene products to girls so they can attend school, the crew has been asked to install thousands of sanitary pad machines in different communities around the world since receiving the nomination.
“After seeing the film I hope people understand this period stigma doesn’t just affect those in India, we experience it in the United States and in other cultures as well,” Zehtabchi told Glamour. “I also want viewers to realize that empowering women worldwide really starts with beginning with opening up the conversation around menstruation. We can implement feminine hygiene, but first, we have to break the taboo.”
Around the world, at least 500 million women and girls lack access to menstrual hygiene management (MHM) facilities, including sanitary products and clean infrastructure. Global governmental bodies like the World Health Organization say it is time to make periods normal as 52 percent of women and girls are of reproductive age – or 1.9 billion people. Inequality in this regard is the result of a lack of information, unsanitary infrastructure, and the fact that supplies are often unavailable or unaffordable, forcing women to miss school and putting them at a disadvantage to their peers. As many as 90 percent of female students in rural Macedonia will miss as many as five days of school while on their periods. In the United States, nearly one-in-five girls have missed school because they didn't have access to period products. In the United Kingdom, that number translates to more than 137,000 girls.
Many girls in many countries have misconceptions about menstruation, combined with pain and taboo, resulting in an increased risk of reproductive health issues and infections. A study last year found that there is a need to educate and make women aware of MHM both for socioeconomic and environmental purposes.
“Girls and women have very less or no knowledge about reproductive tract infections caused due to ignorance of personal hygiene during menstruation time,” wrote the authors.
Countries like Scotland have made strides to combat period poverty. Last year, the Scottish Government announced it will provide free access to menstrual products to students in schools, colleges, and universities.
“A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education,” said documentary producer Melissa Berton.