How "The Pad Project" Strives to Solve an International Women's Issue

“A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.”

This quote has resonated with me ever since I watched the 25-minute documentary short, "Period. End of Sentence." on Netflix. This film shines a light on the stigma of female menstruation in remote and impoverished areas of India. Due to the lack of the appropriate resources and not being able to afford sanitary pads, girls and young women in these areas often resort to using dirty rags, leaves and ashes as alternatives to sanitary pads during menstruation. As I continued to look into this, I found that this is not as uncommon as you might believe.

“Over 1.2 billion women globally don’t have access to feminine hygiene products because of low income, according to the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council," according to Newsweek. "In India, where 'Period. End of Sentence.' was filmed, 12 percent of women don’t have the money for female products. Globally, it gets worse. In Kenya, Africa, 50 percent of women don’t.”

The struggle that girls and women confront every month does not end there. In certain areas– India specifically– women are deemed “impure” during something as natural as menstruating. This belief prevents them from going to school, praying in public and participating in daily life in general. One of the women in the documentary reveals her schooling and education stopped once she reached middle school because handling school and her period became so arduous that she dropped out completely. This is a worldwide issue, approximately 131 million girls are out of school (their periods being a strong factor in this), 100 million of those being of high school age, based on a UNESCO study from 2016. Hence the initiative to raise awareness for not only women’s education, but for access to feminine hygiene products and services in areas where they are extremely limited.

The documentary focuses on the invention of a machine that makes sanitary pads by a man named Muruganantham in India. His machine not only produces biodegradable pads but, he also employs women to work with the machine and travel and sell the pads which provide them with their own salary. There is an incredibly diverse group of women that work on the machine and travel to other villages selling their sanitary pads and educating other women and girls on safe and hygienic menstruating practices.

The film features an older woman in her sixties who up until then had never worked before and a younger woman who later used her earnings to fulfill her dreams and fund her training for the New Delhi police department. These women, as well as organizations like the Pad Project and Action-India, are a beacon of hope and empowerment for providing the necessary education and access to those without such essential resources. However, there is still more that needs to be done, not just in India, but for the millions of women worldwide who are without access to vital education and hygiene products. The documentary, Muruganantham’s machine and Pad Project were funded by Oakwood School students in Los Angeles, California, and they continue to raise awareness and fundraise to maintain the Muruganantham’s machine and business.

Get familiar with the Pad Project and see how you can help at their website.