The Pad Project Founders and Oscar Winners on Ending Menstruation Stigma

Melissa Berton and Helen Yenser won an Oscar for their film about menstruation—now they’re on a mission to install pad machines worldwide.

“Here’s something that half the world experiences and yet, we don’t really talk about it,” said Berton. “And so I think we have a long way to go and there’s no one answer. But at least now maybe a conversation has started.”

Berton and Yenser started The Pad Project, a nonprofit featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” Founded at a California high school in 2012, The Pad Project fundraises to install “pad machines” in developing countries, and educates women in making and selling menstrual products.

The pair worked alongside director Rayka Zehtabchi and an all-women cast and crew. They captured how a pad machine changed the lives of women in a rural Indian village.

“And one thing that’s also cool, is that many of the women who are working on the machine have either never had a job before, or they’ve worked in the fields before. But when that happens, then most of the money goes to either their husbands of their dads,” said Yenser. “But when they’re working on the pad machine, then all that money goes to themselves.”

After its 2019 Oscar win, the organization gained the interest of businesses, schools, and potential investors worldwide. And while the film focuses on destigmatizing periods in a developing country, the producers emphasize that the United States also has work to do.