'Period. End of Sentence' sheds light on menstrual stigmas

How the Oscar-winning documentary is a global call to action

The documentary shines a spotlight on women trying to fight unspoken rules about menstruation.
Credit: 
Screenshot from Netflix

Oscar-winning documentary Period. End of Sentence, now streaming on Netflix, opens on a series of interviews with girls and women from a village in rural India’s Hapur District. The younger women giggle and avert their eyes when asked about their periods.

“I know what it is, but I feel embarrassed [...] I can’t say it,” a girl says, hiding her face in her scarf.

Older women, mothers, and elders are more confident in their answers about menstruation—but they’re still unsure of what happens to their bodies. “It’s bad blood,” one explains, while another states that “babies are born because of it.”

While these conversations show that periods are seldom spoken about publicly, menstruation continues to negatively affect young women in rural Indian communities because of unspoken stigma and customs.

Period. End of Sentence, funded by Los Angeles-based charity The Pad Project, reveals the myriad of ways in which getting a period can change a woman’s daily life. This includes skipping school if there isn’t somewhere safe to change soiled clothes, being barred from temples because of the belief that your prayers aren’t heard while you menstruate, or being expected to enter a marriage once considered mature.

The documentary also shines a spotlight on the women trying to fight these unspoken rules.

In this village, as in countless others throughout rural India, women don’t have regular access to menstrual pads and typically use old cotton cloths under their clothes instead. The half-hour-long documentary follows a group of women who gain access to a machine that lets them make pads out of cotton.

This machine not only allows them to access products that make their lives easier, but it also becomes their source of income.

After learning how to carefully press and fold loose cotton into rectangular pads, the women begin marketing their product, branded as “FLY,” to neighbouring businesses and local women.

“I’ve never sold anything [before],” says aspiring police officer Sneha with a smile on her face. Her smile grows even wider when she pockets the coins from her first sale.

The wages from producing pads are the first source of independent income that most of these women have earned. One is happy to have gained some respect from her husband. Another buys her brother a suit.

“I got him clothes because I had money,” she happily explains to the camera.

This documentary reveals a multifaceted stigma surrounding menstruation and female autonomy—one that’s prevalent around the world, but certainly stands out in Global South and impoverished communities.

When something as natural as a monthly period prevents women from pursuing an education or entering a place of worship, it’s clear something needs to change. By empowering the women in the Hapur District village, The Pad Project has placed power into local hands while simultaneously giving women the tools to navigate it.

When something as natural as a monthly period prevents women from pursuing an education or entering a place of worship, it’s clear something needs to change.

Destigmatizing menstruation has to come from every direction—on a global scale, by supporting charities like The Pad Project, or, on a more local level, by focusing on your individual stigmas.

Periods aren’t any more gross than nosebleeds. They aren’t dirty, or wrong, or unhealthy. Period. End of Sentence shows how harmful this mentality can be on an institutional level.

The documentary also shows how breaking down these barriers can be life-changing.

“I’ll have lots of money,” says Sneha, sitting on the factory floor, talking to interviewers about her future.

“I’ll fulfil my parents’ dreams. And my own dreams.”

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