Oscar-winning producer Melissa Berton, creator of the short documentary “Period. End of Sentence.” will speak at Warren Wilson College on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m.
“Period. End of Sentence.” follows a group of women in rural India as they learn how to operate a machine that makes low-cost, biodegradable sanitary pads, which they sell to other women at affordable prices. The film won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject this year, and it sparked a worldwide conversation about menstrual justice and menstrual equity.
Berton, who is a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers, works as a high school English teacher at Oakwood School in Los Angeles. After learning that the lack of hygienic sanitary products and taboos around menstruation cause nearly a third of Indian girls to miss school during their periods, her class became inspired to raise money for a pad machine and to create a documentary. They raised funds by doing bake sales and yogathons.
“The subject touched me because I would hate for somebody’s intellectual growth and opportunity to stop because of a natural bodily process,” Berton said. “I see how brave my students are in terms of their own advocacy, and I saw that they can be advocates in a way that’s more convincing than adults about this issue.”
Since the documentary aired, Berton said they have received thousands of requests for pad machines. They created a non-profit organization called The Pad Project, which raises money to purchase pad machines around the world. The students who were involved with the initial project became employees and the advisory board for the organization.
“Our work, in a way, has just begun,” Berton said. “We have been humbled and overwhelmed by how many people relate to this issue.”
At the lecture at Warren Wilson College, Berton will speak about the importance of girls staying in school and how youth voices can contribute to the global movement for education. She will also give an overview of “how that whole crazy journey took place.”
“I would hope that people take away an awareness that periods are a source of strength, not a source of shame, that the fight for menstrual justice is a real fight, it’s a worthwhile fight, and that girls and women can do so much to help the world when they are invited to participate as full and equal citizens,” Berton said. “On a personal level, if anybody has a passion for an injustice and they want to take action, they can do it.”
Berton graduated from Warren Wilson with an MFA in poetry in 1993.
“We’re thrilled to have our own alumna receive such prestigious recognition for her work, and we’re so excited to bring her story back to our community,” said Zanne Garland, vice president for advancement at Warren Wilson College. “Melissa Berton’s story is inspiring, and it demonstrates what a Warren Wilson education is all about—preparing students to lead purposeful lives and contribute to the greater good.”
The lecture will be followed by a showing of the documentary and Q&A session. The event is free and open to the public. It will take place in Warren Wilson College’s Kittredge Theatre.