International Women’s Day 2019 has set out to celebrate women's achievements on Friday, March 8. The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, calling for a more gender-balanced world. Acording to www.internationalwomensday.com, “The future is exciting. Let's build a gender-balanced world. Everyone has a part to play - all the time, everywhere. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence. Balance drives a better working world. Let's all help create a #BalanceforBetter.”
It therefore, seems appropriate that Period. End of sentence, a gem of a short documentary film, won the Oscar this year. Period…has taken on the mission of removing the superstition, social stigma and ignorance about menstruation.
Both, the film and the campaign, have set out to level a playfield which so far has been heavily tilted in men’s favour. Both, the film and the campaign, seem to be timely, topical and generating much needed focus on women’s issues that have long been brushed under the carpet. Worldwide.
International Women’s Day 2019
As per International Women’s Day 2019’s website, “Balance is not a women's issue, it's a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage ... Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.”
Period. End of sentence.
A new beginning for, hopefully, the women of India. As the Cosmopolitan noted on their web site (and we are quoting here), “The film is a documentary about the deep-rooted stigma attached to menstruation in a rural village in India. This stigma has prevented girls and young women from staying in education, worshipping in temples, and having access to basic sanitary products. And, tonight it won itself a lovely, shiny Oscar despite an anonymous male member of the Academy recently admitting that, while Period. End of Sentence is “well done", it's about women getting their periods, and women getting their periods grosses men out.” But, fortunately for the women of India, in fact women the world over, this bigoted, sexist, and arrogant mindset didn’t stop the film from winning this award. There’s hope for all of us!
The documentary, set in Hapur village outside Delhi, shows how a group of women have started a quiet revolution in their fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation. The installation of a sanitary pad vending machine in the village, opens the door for the women to learn how to manufacture and market the pads they are making, empowering their community and enabling them to earn a living independent of their husbands, fathers and brothers. They name their brand FLY .
For generations, centuries actually, these women (and millions of others like them across the length and breadth of the country) did not, and still do not, have access to sanitary pads, which leads to serious health issues and girls dropping out of schools. This not only impacts their daily life, it also seriously damages their future potential to make a living, achieve their dreams and better their lives.
The end of a sentence, the end of silence
Yes, we have all conspired to cover the subject of menstruation under a blanket of suffocating silence. Generation after generation of Indian women have been stopped from leading a normal life. Leave alone being unable to get an education…girls and women can’t enter the kitchen, They can’t cook for the family. They can’t enter temples.
They are kept in rickety huts far away from their homes – where many have died due to exposure to the elements, snake bites, animal attacks, infections and physical abuse. This is just one aspect of their lives… Nobody, including the other women in the families, bother to explain why and what menstruation is. The reason is simple: they don’t know themselves. It’s just something that happens. And, they have to suffer through it. At the
risk of life and limb. It is up to society, to all of us, to break these chains of silence. It’s up to the doctors, nurses, medical aides, healthcare professionals, social workers, who all need to reach out and lift the heavy veils of ignorance and stigma that has blighted our land, and the health and happiness of the women of India.
Lift the silence, uplift the women
Leave alone knowing why the bleeding happens, the women and girls don’t have a clue as to why they get severe cramps. Why, sometimes, the bleeding is heavy and unstoppable. Why, when the bleeding doesn’t happen every month, the chances are that they are pregnant. What they should do to NOT get pregnant. Why they get mood swings. As for PMS, the idea that periods can result in depression, stress, tension and crying jags, is something way beyond their ken. This so called “icky” subject of periods needs to be brought out into the open. The curtains of ignorance and social stigma need to be ripped apart, The women and girls of India need to hold their heads up and stop being ashamed of a bodily function that is as old as life itself. And, it’s up to all of us to do it. To put a period, to end a sentence.