Making a Difference ... and Winning an Oscar

College sophomore Claire Sliney is working to end the social stigma around menstruation in developing countries.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Claire Sliney, C'21, and the film’s director, Rayka Zehtabchi

Courtesy of Penn Today

It never occurred to Claire Sliney, C’21, that a labor of love begun in her high-school years would lead her to the 91st Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Sliney is a co-executive producer on the documentary Period. End of Sentence, which describes a collaborative effort she co-founded to address the social stigma around menstruation in developing countries. The film snagged the 2019 Oscar for Best Documentary—Short Subject.

It all started at the Oakwood School in North Hollywood, California. Sliney and fellow members of the Girls Learn International Club took a field trip to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where they learned that women in many countries not only face social ostracism during menstruation, but also that many girls stop attending school because of it.

After learning of an India-based activist named Arunachalam Muruganantham, who had created a machine to make affordable menstrual pads from locally sourced, biodegradable materials, the young women decided to take action. With teachers and parents, the club members launched The Pad Project to raise funds for more machines, connect women and girls in need with local activists, and help normalize conversations about menstruation. To spread the word, the students worked with Los Angeles-based producer Rayka Zehtabchi and Action India to create the documentary.

“This world stage is the most perfect platform for us to be able to spread the word about the stigma surrounding periods and to ultimately dispel that stigma,” Sliney said in a televised interview after the Academy Awards ceremony.

The Philosophy, Politics and Economics major remains focused on her studies and committed to The Pad Project. “I have dedicated so much of my life to this for so many years,” Sliney says. “It is my heart and soul.”