Melissa Berton, lifelong advocate for girls and women, has taught English at Oakwood Secondary School in Los Angeles for over a decade. As faculty advisor for Girls Learn International, a program of The Feminist Majority Foundation advocating for equal access to education across genders, she has thrice participated as a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, leading the largest student delegation from a single high school. In 2013, following that first U.N. trip, Berton inspired her students to produce a documentary to raise awareness about menstrual health and education worldwide, leading to a 2019 Oscar win for Best Documentary Short Period. End of Sentence. With her students, she also co-founded The Pad Project, a global non-profit organization dedicated to the idea that “a period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” The newly released book, Period. End of Sentence.: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice, with foreword by Berton, outlines universal menstrual challenges and the solutions being championed by a new generation of body positive activists.
Her screenplay, Do Not Go Gentle, about poet Dylan Thomas, had a live reading at the Geffen Theater in 2016, with Jack Black in the lead role. Berton took her BA from UCLA and her MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College.
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.”