Filmmakers of 'Period. End of Sentence' share their story

Rayka Zehtabchi, Melissa Berton and Claire Sliney discuss their Oscar win and explain why they started the pad project.
7:33 | 03/08/19

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Transcript for Filmmakers of 'Period. End of Sentence' share their story
short "Period. End of sentence" who won an Oscar for putting a spotlight on the taboo of menstruation in rural India and the life-changing machine that's now empowering women to produce their own sanitary pads. Take a look. Please welcome director rayka zehtabchi and producers Melissa Berton and Claire Sliney. First of all, congratulations on the Oscar. That is wonderful, and today is international women's day, and even now, in 2019, periods are still stigmatized around the world which is unbelievable to me. Rayka, as the director, you traveled to rural India and spoke face-to-face with women about menstruation and what did you learn? We learned that a lot of women don't have access to sanitary hygiene products. We learned that in the villages there may be one store far away that has -- sells a couple packs of pads but usually it's being sold by male shopkeepers and the women don't feel comfortable and are embarrassed to purchase it from the shopkeeper. It's treated like contraband. We bought a pad from a male shopkeeper and he put it in a box and wrapped it in a black plastic bag and there's all these steps to ensure that no one knows what this thing is. In addition to that, the women are using cloth or really anything that they can find because that's really kind of what's culturally accepted and because no one's talking, no one's actually talking to them about the steps that they need to take. What kind of impact does it have on their lives? Um, well, there's all sorts of health-related problems that arise when you're using cloth or reusing cloth especially. In addition to that, I think the fear and the shame of menstruating and not knowing what's happening to your body every single month, thinking that you have an illness or that there's something inherently wrong with you, I think that really holds women back in other aspects of their lives. Yeah. Melissa, the film came out as a project. You were teaching in Oakland high school in California? That is true. Yeah, and tell us about that and why was this particular thing important to you? Well, around 7 years ago two students approached me and said, would you be the faculty sponsor for an organization called girls learn international. Girls learn international is a nationwide organization that seeks to give high school students a voice in the global movement for equal access to education for all genders. So, as part of that initiative, they send 16-year-old students to the united nations. In fact, they will be here starting Monday the 11th on the commission status of women at the united nations. They've got their head badges on, they're in the rooms advocating for the rights of the girl. It's important that a girl be in the room, and it was in one of these commissions that we learned about girls dropping out once they begin to menstruate and we learned at the same time about someone who had at that time just created this machine. So the students and I thought immediately we need to -- we need to raise awareness about this, we're going to get a machine, work with our partners in India who we knew had been wanting the machine and make a film about it. You know, I watched this last night and I got to tell you, I have a sister from India who was adopted and so it was close to my heart but just how much we take for granted in this country. I will never walk in a pharmacy again without thinking about how lucky we are and you guys put a spotlight on that. True, and there's still stigma here. People in movies here usually when someone goes to buy tampons or pads it's the father who's embarrassed or the boyfriend. I think we still have a lot of stigma here. It's also the girl who's embarrassed. I remember when I went to the drugstore in my neighborhood and I said, can I have a kotex? The pharmacist said to me, how profuse is your flow and I went what? I thought I was going to die right there on the ground. I would have thought so too. Imagine having that question from a grown man. Oh, my gosh. Unbelievable. Claire, you're only 20 years old. You attend my ALMA mater. Yes. Already an Oscar winner, unbelievable. You were a student under Melissa and you were a co-founder of the pad project. Tell people that don't know what that is all about it. Yeah, so under Melissa's guidance I came on to girls international and learned about this issue and was so moved by it also that a large group of us really wanted to continue to pursue this issue and do what we could to raise awareness. So we did a bunch of different, like, home grown fundraising things, bake sales, like back yard yoga fundraisers and ultimately launched a kickstarter to raise money for a pad machine and a year's worth of supplies and then whatever we could to make this documentary. So it was like step by step lunch meetings working to make this happen. So really the goal was to supply this machine. What does the machine do exactly? It produces sanitary pads, biodegradable sanitary pads for a very, very low cost. And the women manufacture the pads using the machine. And sell them. And make wages doing it. There was a part of the documentary where one of the women said I can actually buy my brother a suit. Exactly. She felt like she had earned it herself. Exactly. It's fantastic. It's both providing pads in a place where they're stigmatized and there's not a huge amount of access and then also allowing women to engage in the economy and make wages for themselves. And rayka, installing the pad machine in the village, since installing it you've kept in touch with the women in India and what kind of changes have you observed and are the men more accepting? That was another part of the film because I saw the men also making the pads which was fascinating to me. They didn't know what a period was. Initially the woman told them it was a Huggies machine that creates diapers and they were all fine with that. Once I think the men started realizing that, hey, my daughter is working and she's making money and she's putting this towards her education, I think they began to really accept this machine. And I think maybe some of them all along may have known that it creates pads and not diapers, but since the machine was installed, the women are now making I think up to 250 pads a day and selling them. Great work, great work. Our thanks to rayka, Melissa and Claire. "Period. End of sentence" is streaming on Netflix now. Please catch it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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