Kathikhera, a small village in Hapur district, hogged the limelight on Monday after a documentary, Period. End of Sentence, shot here, won an Oscar in the Best Documentary Short Subject category at the 91st Academy Awards.
The 26-minute documentary is based on the work being done by two village women, Sneha (22) and her sister-in-law Suman (37), who dared to raise the issues of periods and menstrual hygiene in a conservative society and installed a sanitary pad making machine in their house.
The two women also set up a sanitary pad vending machine in the village where other women also learned to manufacture and market their own pads. They named their brand ‘FLY’.
Sneha and Suman themselves feature in the documentary that has been directed by 25-year-old Rayka Zehtabchi and co-produced by Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment, which has backed films like The Lunchbox and Masaan.
“It is an honour for the entire country and Hapur district. I congratulate the villagers for extending their support to us,” said Sneha’s father and Suman’s father-in-law Rajendra Tanwar.
“Sneha and Suman are currently in the US to attend the Academy Awards ceremony and have shared their success with the family over phone,” said a beaming Tanwar.
Suman and Sneha are associated with a women’s welfare group Mahila Sabla Sangh. Two years ago, NGO Action India approached them to educate women and girls about menstrual health and hygiene, and making sanitary napkins was a part of the project.
“Sneha and Suman decided to take up the project and agreed to install a sanitary pad making machine in their house. It was installed in a small room. Even the family members were not aware about the work they were doing initially,” said Tanwar.
They started contacting girls and women of the village to educate them about the importance of sanitary napkins in maintaining proper health.
In this conservative village, with a population of 4,500 where Gujjar community is dominant, Sneha and Suman developed a support group and succeeded in convincing a few village girls and women to work with them.
They also received help from their young village head Sakshi Singh (25).
“We provided every possible help to them in streamlining their work which indeed was a great support for women. The entire village is happy over the success of Sneha and Suman,” said Sakshi’s father-in-law Rajpal Singh.
“A team from the US had reached the village about one-and-a-half years ago and shot a film on the work being done by Sneha and Suman. Members of ‘Action India’ also accompanied the team,” Rajpal said.
“After some time, we forgot about the shooting and Sneha and Suman got back to their routine work. Things changed when they received information that their documentary has been nominated for the Oscars,” he said.
Tanwar and other villagers, however, admit that it was difficult to talk about periods and sanitary napkins in a conservative society but they decided not to give up.