Period. End of Sentence confronts viewers with alarming statistics, but also with evidence that the right thinking can affect global change.
Among the many staggering revelations in the new Netflix documentary short Period. End of Sentence is the startling admission that only 10 percent of women in India have access to affordable sanitary products. There are plenty of reasons why. One is a simple lack of information. Menstruation is seen as a cultural taboo; adult women see it as “dirty” and against God, young boys think it’s an illness. Another reason is economic. Young girls, perhaps as many as half of whom drop out of school once they begin menstruating, limit their career prospects. They become uneducated, unemployed brides, nothing is learned, and the cycle begins anew.
Period. End of Sentence does a great job of not just highlighting these issues, but also how fixable they are. It’s a non-judgemental piece of documentary filmmaking (funded almost entirely through Kickstarter) that crams more into 26 minutes than many others do in an hour and a half. The project is in part the brainchild of a non-profit in California known as “The Pad Project”, established by enterprising students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles. The film itself is the work of Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi, but it’s really a work of forward-thinking positive change, intended to destigmatize a bizarre cultural taboo by highlighting not just how simple it is to rectify, but how wide-ranging the effects of doing so can be.
Enter the “Pad Man”, Arunachalam Muruganantham, who installs easy-to-operate machines in rural areas that provide cheap sanitary supplies to the local women, who are taught to operate the machines and sell the products at a highly affordable rate. Just like that, a demystifying business has been created, one which educates and provides a sustainable source of income and necessary supplies to women who would otherwise have neither. And the knock-on effects are profound. By teaching women that they don’t have to use leaves or old rags to manage their periods, young girls are, by extension, being taught that menstruation is not an illness or an unholy abomination, but a perfectly normal bodily function.
The marginalisation of women in India has been highlighted by Netflix before in another short documentary, Ladies First. It’s clear that there is plenty of work still to be done in dispelling nonsensical attitudes and traditions in parts of the world that many of us, in the comfortable capital-W West, often fail to even consider. But films like Period. End of Sentence go some way towards highlighting how awareness can have profound results, and how right-thinking people, even at the other end of the world, can change and improve the lives of millions.