An Academy Award-winning producer for Best Documentary Short (2019), Melissa Berton is a Los Angeles-based teacher and writer. She is the Founder & Executive Director of The Pad Project, a non- profit organization dedicated to the idea that “a period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” Berton has been a lifelong advocate for girls and women, serving as the faculty sponsor for Girls Learn International, a program of The Feminist Majority Foundation that advocates for equal access to education for all genders.
For the past decade, she has taught English at Oakwood Secondary School, where she inspired her students to make the film Period. End of Sentence. to raise awareness about the importance of menstrual health and education worldwide. A poet and screenwriter, Melissa has had her work published in The Southern Review, The Southwest Review, The Colorado Review, and The Washington Square Press, among other journals. She served as the Assistant Editor at the Antioch Review for many years Her screenplay Do Not Go Gentle, about the poet Dylan Thomas, had a live reading at the Geffen Theater in 2016, with Jack Black playing the role of Dylan Thomas. Berton took her BA from UCLA and her MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College. She is the recipient of the 2019 Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women’s Rights Award.
FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Pad Project is a nonprofit organization founded by Melissa Berton and her high school students, dedicated to the principle that “a period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” All over the world, particularly in low and middle-income countries, girls drop out of school due to lack of access to affordable and hygienic menstrual products. Fifty percent of the world’s population experiences menstruation. The Pad Project’s job is to make sure that one hundred percent has the tools to manage it.
“It breaks your heart to think that people believe that the period is a source of shame. We’re excited to be a little part of breaking that taboo.”
Mamie, grade 9, reads at Bumpe High School -Bumpe, Sierra Leone
LAUNCHING A MOVEMENT
With the support of family and friends, Melissa and the Pad Project Team created the documentary PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE. which aims to inspire people everywhere to think globally and recognize the impact young women can have to dispel the stigmas surrounding menstruation. The documentary raises awareness about the power of education and demonstrates the impact of launching a micro-economy.
2019 Academy Award- Winning Short Documentary PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE., screened across the U.S. at film festivals in 2018 winning numerous awards and premiered on Netflix in February 2019. It follows the women of Kathikhera, a village outside of New Delhi, India, as they install a machine and sell their pads throughout their district. The movement goes beyond the screen as the pad project continues to work to raise funds, awareness, and education throughout the world.
INVITE MELISSA TO SPEAK
As a high school English teacher for over twenty years, Melissa believes in the importance of education as a fundamental human right. With her public speaking, she engages and energizes audiences at colleges, universities, and forums around the world. In addition, Melissa has been hired to deliver keynote speeches for organizations such as The American Federation of Teachers, Planned Parenthood, The Saint Helena Forum for Innovation & Creativity, The Feminist Majority Foundation, Orange County Grantmakers, The United Jewish Federation, Nexus Global Summit, and many more. Melissa has made TV appearances on various news programs as well as on talk shows, including ABC’s The View and Good Morning America. She champions female empowerment, youth activism, and equal access to education for all.
“Trust your truth, your need to take risks, your understanding of your pursuits, and trust that your inner student can become your teacher.”