The AFI Presented by Audi has ended, but our reporting on the hugely successful event has not.
The REEL360 team is happy to report that a short film we are a fan of Rayka Zehtabchi’s documentary, Period. End of Sentence, won the Audience award for Best Short Film.
The shocking and inspirational film tells the story of a quiet, profound revolution taking place for girls and women just outside of Delhi, India, where the stigma of menstruation limits their potential.
Without access to sanitary products or proper education about their bodies, the women were using cloth to stop their menstrual flow, but that of course was useless.
Because of this, millions of girls ended up missing school or dropping out entirely once they begin their periods. The men of the village even believed menstruation is an illness.
But in a modest home in a rural Indian village, a group of women of all ages gathered to unpack wooden crates filled with the donated supplies they will need to produce thousands of pads which they will eventually sell to other local women in an effort to improve their feminine hygiene. And thus, they launched their own off-shoot of “The Pad Project.”
They branded their pads with name, “Fly.” Perhaps because it represents their yearning for mobility or maybe just because the village girls like the name.
This micro-business in a box stimulated the economy of individuals in the village and empowered women and girls to feel comfortable with their bodies and to stay in school past puberty. Because a period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.
It’s quite a beautiful little film.
Director Rayka Zehtabchi shared a statement with REEL360,
“In nearly every culture, menstruation is taboo. Why? I’m not so sure. The fact that we get to bring attention to the issues of global period shaming and menstrual hygiene in such a proactive way makes this particular story among the most compelling I’ve come across. To think that a group of 15- to 16-year-old high school girls started this movement is even more remarkable.
As a young director and a woman, I’m honored to be working beside them. In the course of making this documentary, my cinematographer and I traveled to India and talked to hundreds of girls, boys, women and men. It was always challenging to enter remote villages with a film crew and interview people about an extremely culturally sensitive topic.
I realized there’s a big issue with women feeling like they have a muted voice and little impact. This machine — this project, is changing that. Women in villages are now granted the opportunity to run their own business and work toward a cause that affects them personally. Most importantly, they’re able to have access to sanitary products and educate other women on menstrual hygiene.”
How it Began
The idea for the documentary actually began here in Los Angeles with a group of young feminist high school students from the Oakwood School who wanted to know why girls in their partner schools abroad — in countries as far reaching as India, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone — were leaving school at an alarming rate, just after they started to get their periods.
Much to their surprise, the students discovered there was a severe lack of access to sanitary products and an even greater dearth of educational health awareness in many of these communities.
The women discovered that their counterparts often felt ashamed of their periods and would be rendered helpless by this natural process of womanhood. Consequently, period-shaming was reaching epic
proportions and stories of suicides in Indian villages attributed to this were increasing.
As the Oakwood students explored the topic even further, they started diving into the statistics. They learned that in developing countries, like India, between 25% and 57% of adolescent girls miss school or drop out altogether because of their periods.
If girls receive seven full years of education, they will marry an average of four years later and have 2.2 fewer children. If they attend only one additional year of secondary school, their lifetime wages could increase by up to 20%, consequently raising their country’s GDP by billions of dollars.
The group was already involved with the Feminist Majority Foundation’s high school program, Girls Learn International (GLI).
They worked closely with the FMF to research and ultimately purchase a locally-manufactured machine that can produce sanitary pads for an entire rural village. This business-in-a-box could also offer a second opportunity for the women of the communities: A micro-business making and selling the pads.
Armed with a plan, the Oakwood students embarked on a fundraising journey to raise funds to buy the machine and supplies to run it. The funds were raised through numerous bake sales, yoga-thons and successful Kickstarter campaigns.
Through a Kickstarter campaign, the group, now producers themselves, had raised enough money to hire director Rayka Zehtabchi. Zehtabchi, a recent graduate of USC film school, is a young female writer, director and producer.
She spent a great deal of time with the core group of Oakwood girls, learning about the project and going over their plan for the documentary.
The group shared their ideas for the film and disclosed their fears of being perceived as “white saviors” in the process. Zehtabchi helped frame the documentary project and took her initial trip to Hapur, a region outside of New Delhi, India, to begin filming.
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The producers researched and arranged an NGO partnership with Action India to forge educational links with the most needy and deserving women and girls in the villages outside Delhi.
They also established an official 501c3 nonprofit to continue elevating awareness about period shaming and to raise funds to provide pad machines in other areas where a need is identified around the world.
Since Period. End of Sentence. premiered at film festivals in May, it has won the jury prize for Best Documentary Short Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival, where it qualified for Academy-Award consideration and has played at the prestigious AFI DOCS in Washington, D.C.
The film deserves every accolade it receives as it has taken a little known subject and brought it to the world’s attention. Every young woman involved with this project should be proud.
Source: Dish Communications