Menstruation: An Oscar-Winning Cause

by Maria Carmen Punzi, Menstrual Health Focal Point, PSI Europe, and Sandy Garçon, Senior Manager, Advocacy, PSI

The 2019 Oscars brought a close to awards season on a night of historic firsts, particularly for diverse artists and filmmakers and their contributions to Hollywood.

Amid these historic firsts, one film made global health history, too: Period. End of Sentence took home the win for best documentary short.

The 26-minute film was created by the Pad Project, a non-profit that advocates for access to menstrual hygiene in the US and in the developing world. It follows girls and women in the city of Hapur, India, and their experience fighting against taboos associated with menstruation. For generations, women in Hapur didn’t have access to commercial products to manage their periods, which constrained their mobility and their full participation in social life. But when a sanitary pad machine is installed in the village, the women of Hapur learn to manufacture and market their own pads, taking the power to manage their periods in their hands.

Period. End of Sentence is currently streaming on Netflix.

PSI’s work in India, Nepal and Ethiopia has strived to bring the critical, but often overlooked, topic of menstruation to the forefront of global health. Since 2016, PSI has created several projects to ensure that every adolescent girl and young woman understands her menstrual cycle as a healthy and natural process and is now actively working for menstrual health to be recognized as a fundamental pillar of sexual and reproductive health. Period.

  • Expanding Access to Menstrual Products in India and Ethiopia: As part of a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation from 2017-2018, PSI identified a number of opportunities to overcome constraints around menstrual health and hygiene management (MHM), and move towards a sustainable market for MHM products. Through this study, PSI learned that women and girls are using commercial pads more frequently than expected. And what’s more, women and girls like those in Hapur are willing to pay more for better quality products. Read how the commercial sector can grow to meet the increased need for quality MHM products here.
  • The Case for Her: in 2016, PSI has joined forces with Maverick Collective member Cristina Ljungberg’s funding collaborative, The Case for Her, to make periods a priority in Nepal’s adolescent health landscape. One in four Nepalese girls do not know what a period is before it starts, and many teen girls do not understand the changes taking place with their bodies during puberty. During this project, PSI learned that periods can often be a conversation starter to familiarize youth with sexual and reproductive health. At the end of 2018, expanding the project to other countries to learn from PSI network members, we found that menstrual bleeding changes and irregularities, sometimes caused by hormonal contraceptives, are causes of concern for girls and women, who fear their fertility is being affected. The project – still ongoing – revealed that it is important to understand girls’ fears and desires and use the proper counseling tools like NORMAL, co-developed by FHI360 and PSI, to inform them about their menstrual cycle and possible bleeding changes. This insight can also help refine and strengthen the effectiveness of family planning interventions, helping girls and young women feel confident about their contraceptive choices.

As we keep working with, and not just for, girls and women, we cannot ignore the important role menstruation plays in their sexual and reproductive lives. Using the insights collected in the projects above, PSI is committed to bringing menstrual health to the places it is needed most, valuing it as an essential pillar of sexual and reproductive health, and continues to create partnerships that work with and for women and girls. Stay tuned to PSI’s Impact blog to learn more about what PSI has in store for menstrual health.

Check out Period. End of Sentence and the Pad Project to learn how women can take the power of their periods back into their hands.

Period. End of Sentence. Official Trailer from Rayka Zehtabchi on Vimeo.

Banner image: (c) PSI/Gurmeet Sapal

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