In 2019 Rayka Zehtabchi became the first Iranian woman to win an Oscar for her documentary short Period. End of Sentence. Set in the rural Indian district of Hapur Period. End of Sentence explores the deep-rooted stigma surrounding menstruation and charts the extraordinary impact that the arrival of a sanitary pad-making machine has on a community.
Zehtabchi’s film swiftly sketches the pervasive effects of the stigma around menstruation, highlighting how each month periods profoundly limit and even endanger the lives of women and girls across rural India. In the Hapur District, where Period. End of Sentence finds its focus, menstruation is a great source of shame. Women are deemed unclean, are unable to enter temples to worship, and due to limited access to sanitary products often resort to unhygienic and ineffective alternatives. Menstruation can even act as a barrier to education, as young girls often remain at home each month, causing them to fall behind with their studies, or even drop out of schooling altogether.
But a revolution is forming in the Hapur District. The arrival of a pad-making machine funded by the organisation The Pad Project signals the arrival of change to this community of women. Through producing and distributing their own sanitary pads the women of Hapur redefine the social meanings attributed to their bodies and gain financial independence and respect from the men in their community.
In just 25 minutes Zehtabch captures with sensitivity and warmth a community of women overcoming period stigma to find the power in the feminine, whilst the critical recognition Period. End of Sentence has since received marks a symbolic step toward the global community’s own rejection of the menstruation taboo. Period stigmatisation is a global issue and on receiving her award Zehtabchi reminds us of this fact, when through her tears she said ‘I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything’.
Watch it here: