She’s the First: Fighting period stigma in India 

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Anika Veeraraghav, vice president of She's the First, leads a discussion following the showing of a documentary Tuesday night in Homer Babbidge Library. "Period: End of Sentence," is a documentary that follows the story of Indian women fighting the stigma surrounding menstruation.  Photo by Brandon Barzola / The Daily Campus

Anika Veeraraghav, vice president of She’s the First, leads a discussion following the showing of a documentary Tuesday night in Homer Babbidge Library. “Period: End of Sentence,” is a documentary that follows the story of Indian women fighting the stigma surrounding menstruation. Photo by Brandon Barzola / The Daily Campus

Netflix documentary ‘Period: End of Sentence’ generates discussion on empowering women when it comes to menstruation  

Young girls are scattered throughout a classroom. A camera pans around, capturing giggly faces as they try to figure out how to answer a question that was posed to them. “It’s bad blood that comes out,” said one older woman to the camera.  

What was the question posed that made young girls laugh while older women solemnly stared at the camera?  

Among communities throughout India, menstruation is a taboo subject. The 2018 short on Netflix titled “Period: End of Sentence,” explores the negative impact the stigmatization of periods has on women, especially on their education, and how they can fight the stigma. Student organization She’s the First UConn showed the film Tuesday evening in the Homer Babbidge Library as part of their weekly meetings, concentrated around discussion on issues women around the world are facing globally. The documentary won the Oscar for best documentary short at the beginning of this year, focusing on a rural village in India called Hapur, where women generate financial independence and empowerment by utilizing a machine that makes feminine hygiene products.  

“I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar,” said Rayka Zehtabchi, one of the film’s directors at the awards show, according to an article by Good Morning America. Melissa Berton was a Los Angeles based teacher who raised funds with her students to provide schools in India with pad machines that could create locally made sanitary pads for an entire rural village.  

The film is in collaboration with The Pad Project, which seeks to face head-on the issue of menstrual equity and the importance of girls’ education. One woman in the documentary dropped out of school completely due to her period.  

“Through innovation, education and advocacy, The Pad Project aims to help move towards a world where girls feel empowered in their bodies, achieve economic independence, understand their reproductive and sexual health options and harness the power to shape their lives,” according to the organization’s about page.  

Data from organizations such as the United Nations shows 80% of girls in India encounter restrictions during their periods and miss school an average of five days a month, according to an article by Good Morning America. Not only that, the women do not have access to pads at all and are not aware of them, using cloths instead that might not be sanitary for use and discreetly throwing them away.  

“Without proper sanitary supplies, they may resort to using leaves, dirty rags and even ashes to manage their periods,” according to The Pad Project. 

The women followed in the documentary go door to door to sell their product, branded as “Fly,” alluding to the idea of women being freed from the social stigma and patriarchal oppression of menstruation in society. A woman who is menstruating is also shunned from places of worship, according to the film. The documentary follows women such as Sheba, who said she wanted to be part of the police force to save herself from getting married.  

“It’s me versus the entire village…girls don’t have much freedom,” Sheba said.  

“There are a lot of things that need to be changed,” Shabana, another woman interviewed, said. 

Education arguably may be one of the most important aspects of empowering women all over the world.  

“If girls receive seven full years of education, they will marry an average of four years later and have 2.2 fewer children,” according to The Pad Project. “If they attend just one additional year of secondary school, their lifetime wages could increase by up to 20%, consequently raising their countries’ GDPs by billions of dollars.” 

It’s especially important for people to get a “global aspect,” said She’s the First president, seventh-semester Allied Health major, Julie Pham, said. “What’s accessible to other countries versus the U.S. is different.” 

“My family is from India. I want to change the topic in my generation and family,” Anika Veeraraghav, third-semester cognitive science major, copy editor for The Daily Campus and vice president of She’s the First, said.  

“Harnessing technology and social media, She’s the First is committed to connecting sponsors and scholars around the world in innovative, mutually beneficial ways to foster mentorship, philanthropy, equality and leadership,” according to the organization’s website.  

The student organization has an educational topic every week, Veeraraghav said. Next week’s event will be themed around Studio Ghibli at 7 p.m. in the Class of 1947 room of Homer Babbidge Library.  


Kimberly Nguyen is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.

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