On 5 April 2018, the documentary Period. End of Sentence. premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. In the documentary, Rayka Zehtabchi, the director of the film, documents the stigma surrounding menstruation in India and follows a group of women in Kathikhera, a rural village in the Hapur district of India, as they manufacture and distribute sanitary pads. A group of high school students at Oakwood High School in Los Angeles, California, raised money to produce the documentary after one student was inspired by her visit to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, New York, which focused on the stigma surrounding menstruation in low-income countries. Period. End of Sentence. draws attention to the obstacles impeding proper menstrual health management in low-income contexts by documenting the women of Kathikhera’s journey to manufacture and sell sanitary pads.
In 2008, Celeste Mergens founded the organization Days for Girls to address obstacles impeding women’s and girls’ access to sustainable hygiene and health education by enlisting volunteers around the world to construct reusable menstrual hygiene products for girls in low-income countries. Mergens founded Days for Girls in the US in 2008 after learning that an orphanage she was working with in Kenya did not have resources for girls to manage their menstrual cycles. She provided those girls with reusable sanitary pads, and later that year, she decided to provide Days for Girls Kits, or DfG Kits, that volunteers from around the world made for women and girls in parts of the world lacking access to menstrual hygiene products. By 2012, Mergens launched chapters across the United States to allow volunteers to hand-sew the DfG Kits, and by 2019, the organization expanded to include chapters in Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Uganda. Days for Girls provides women and girls with education and resources necessary to manage menstruation, which can help reduce the instances of absenteeism for girls in schools and reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases.
In 1902, editors of the medical journal Alkaloidal Clinic Wallace C. Abbott and William Francis Waugh published Sexual Hygiene, a book about normal sexual physiology and behavior in Chicago, Illinois. Though the book includes a collection of passages from other books, articles, speeches, and documents surrounding sexual physiology and behavior, it does not include text regarding sexual hygiene. Rather, the book contains a preface and twenty-eight chapters on topics including masturbation, incomplete or delayed intercourse, and impotence, meaning the inability for a female to achieve an orgasm or a male to achieve an erection. Though physicians and those who served as experts in the book used seemingly factual scientific evidence to back up their claims, later scientific understanding of male and female physiology disproved many of those assertions. Sexual Hygiene is an early US discussion of sex by medical authorities that provides examples of historical medical misconceptions about sexual practices, physiology, gender roles, and context for understanding reproductive medicine during the early 1900s.
Prenatal Care is an educational booklet written by Mary Mills West of the US Children’s Bureau and published by the US Government Printing Office in 1913. The Bureau distributed West’s booklets in response to their field studies on infant mortality, which found that lack of access to accurate health and hygiene information put women and infants at greater than normal risk of death or disease. In Prenatal Care, West offers advice on nutrition, exercise, and personal hygiene during pregnancy and describes the processes of labor and birth. Soon after publication, women all over the US requested copies of Prenatal Care. Millions of copies of Prenatal Care were distributed nationally between 1921 and 1928 as part of educational programs funded by the Sheppard-Towner Act, and the infant mortality rate declined during that period.
In their 2014 article “A Comparison of the Menstruation and Education Experiences of Girls in Tanzania, Ghana, Cambodia, and Ethiopia,” hereafter “Comparison of Menstruation,” researchers Marni Sommer, T. Mokoah Nana Ackatia-Armah, Susan Connolly, and Dana Smiles examined various physical and social barriers impacting women’s management of menstrual health across Ghana, Cambodia, and Ethiopia. The authors examined barriers such as misinformation about menstruation and how schools limit girls’ ability to manage their menstrual cycles. They then compared their findings to a previous study led by Sommer on similar experiences shared by girls living in Tanzania. “Comparison of Menstruation” provides insight into the physical and social barriers to managing menstruation in low-resource contexts and serves as a precursor to the creation of educational resources intended to improve menstruation health management for women and girls.