Period. End of Sentence, featuring Sneha and Suman, won an award at the Oscars on Sunday, last week deals with the stigma of menstruation in India. Period. Kathikhera, a small village in Hapur district, hogged the limelight on Monday after a documentary, Period. End of Sentence, which tackles the stigma of menstruation in the country, created history at the 91st Academy Awards after winning in the best documentary short category.
Indian film producer Guneet Monga is elated about winning an Oscar for her co-production “Period. End of Sentence”, which highlights the stigma around menstruation. She says the accolade adds more power to her mission to “change the world”.
The 26-minute film follows girls and women in Hapur in northern India and their experience with the installation of a pad machine in their village. The film, backed by Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, is about women in India fighting against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation and delving upon the work of real life ‘Pad Man’ Arunachalam Muruganathan.
“Thank you to the Academy for the highest honour and for recognising the efforts of the young girls from Oakwood school in LA to Kathikera in UP in helping us shatter the glass ceiling,” Monga said in a statement.
The film was nominated along with Black Sheep, End Game, Lifeboat and A Night At The Garden in the category. Winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Short was not an easy task for the makers of India-based documentary Period. End of Sentence as it required hard work and struggle of 20 years, said Sneha and Suman, who have featured in the short film.
“This was not a day’s struggle, the award bears testimony to 20 years of hard labour. Shabana, Usha, Shashi, Shushila and Anita. Our unit team included seven workers — Sneha, Rakhi, Sushma, Rinki, Preeti, Ruksana and Arsi. It would have been difficult to make this film and fight for this cause without them,” Sneha told ANI.
“We have received success today on a topic on which we can’t even talk about in public. Periods, which are looked down upon in the society, we have been able to work towards raising awareness about it. Our aim is not just to sell sanitary napkins. Our aim is to make people accept cleanliness during periods. We want all women to understand this and take care of their hygiene. If our voice reaches to a single girl, then we feel we have received success,” Suman added.
The 26-minute short documentary, co-produced by Guneet Monga and directed by 25-year-old Rayka Zehtabchi, follows a group of women in Hapur, India who lead a quiet revolution as they fight against the stigma of menstruation that is deeply rooted in society.
For generations, the women of the village did not have access to sanitary pads, which lead to health issues among them. When a sanitary pad is installed in their village, the women learn to manufacture and market their own pads, naming it ‘FLY.’
Sneha’s family also expressed their joy over the win. Sneha’s brother Kapil while speaking to ANI, said, “It is based on my sister’s life, but not just my sister, everyone related to the film should get credit for the film’s win. The director and actors of the film, all deserve the award. It’s a very happy moment for all of us.”
Sneha’s friend and co-worker Sushma also expressed her happiness and said, “I am feeling very happy and proud. We come from a small village and we didn’t know about this earlier. We had worked very hard on this and so we are feeling very proud. We are very happy that the movie based on our company and our work has got an award.”
Besides them, Bollywood too erupted with happiness. From Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, Vicky Kaushal and Neha Dhupia to Dia Mirza and Mini Mathur, various B-Town celebrities took to Twitter to congratulate the film’s team on the big win.
“Periods are normal and in no way do they stop us from achieving anything. This has been more than 10 years of work of Action India, run by Gauri Chaudhary, on educating reproductive rights on the ground in many villages. Feminist Majority Movement and Girls Learn International have been pushing this cause in the US,” she added.
The 26-minute documentary is based on the work being done by two village women, Sneha (22) and her sister-in-law Suman (37), who dared to raise the issues of periods and menstrual hygiene in a conservative society and installed a sanitary pad making machine in their house.
The two women also set up a sanitary pad vending machine in the village where other women also learned to manufacture and market their own pads. They named their brand ‘FLY’.
Sneha and Suman themselves feature in the documentary that has been directed by 25-year-old Rayka Zehtabchi and co-produced by Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, which has backed films like The Lunchbox and Masaan.
“It is an honour for the entire country and Hapur district. I congratulate the villagers for extending their support to us,” said Sneha’s father and Suman’s father-in-law Rajendra Tanwar.
“Sneha and Suman are currently in the US to attend the Academy Awards ceremony and have shared their success with the family over phone,” said a beaming Tanwar.
Suman and Sneha are associated with a women’s welfare group Mahila Sabla Sangh. Two years ago, NGO Action India approached them to educate women and girls about menstrual health and hygiene, and making sanitary napkins was a part of the project.
“Sneha and Suman decided to take up the project and agreed to install a sanitary pad making machine in their house. It was installed in a small room. Even the family members were not aware about the work they were doing initially,” said Tanwar.
They started contacting girls and women of the village to educate them about the importance of sanitary napkins in maintaining proper health.
In this conservative village, with a population of 4,500 where Gujjar community is dominant, Sneha and Suman developed a support group and succeeded in convincing a few village girls and women to work with them.
Directed by award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi, the film is created by The Pad Project, an organization established by an inspired group of students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles and their teacher, Melissa Berton.
Monga has a message for girls all around the world. “Every girl in India or anywhere around the world needs to know this and hear this loud and clear. Period is an end of a sentence, but not a girl’s education.”
“Mandakini Kakar from Sikhya was on the floor working with the film and is the voice of the film too. And thank you Stacey Sher and Lisa Taback for supporting this massive dream. And thank you Netflix (for) truly putting us on the map.” She wants “every girl to know that each one of them is a goddess. Now, that we have an Oscar, Let’s go change the world.”