Ruby Schiff ’21 will be attending the 91st Academy Awards in her high school prom dress. Instead of purchasing a new outfit for the awards, where her film “Period. End of Sentence.” has been nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject), she plans to use her money towards her campaign: The Pad Project, which raises money for cost-efficient, locally sourced, biodegradable pads for women in disadvantaged communities around the world. The project is also what led her to become an executive producer on an Oscar-nominated documentary.
After joining the Girls Learn International Club in ninth grade, a club that partners U.S. students with schools around the world, Schiff flew to the UN on a school-commissioned trip. There she learned of the number of girls who dropped out of school due to their periods.
“When we found out that girls our own age were dropping out of school because of their periods, it touched us all on a personal level. We knew we needed to find a solution,” Schiff said.
The lack of sanitary products and miseducation surrounding the menstrual cycle makes it more difficult for younger women in developing nations to attend school, resulting in lower graduation rates and more subjection to child marriage.
Schiff and a group of five friends began to raise funds to establish a pad-disposal machine in Hapur, a small rural village near New Delhi, India.
“We began by educating our high school about this issue and fundraised within the community. We would do bake sales during lunch, and I ran some yogathons in my backyard,” Schiff said. She started a Kickstarter that would go on to finance a great portion of the film. The Kickstarter has now reached an astounding $45,000, and continues to grow.
“Originally, we wanted it to be a student-run documentary from start to finish, but when I told my dad about the work we were doing, he was so inspired and he started to get more invested,” Schiff said. Ruby’s father, Hollywood screenplay writer Garrett Schiff, set aside all of his other projects to help his daughter fulfil her dreams of spreading awareness of this issue through film. “He was the one who eventually found our director, Rayka Zehtabchi,” Schiff said. “I remember how surprised [Zehtabchi] was to walk into a room to see 15 high school producers selling her on this project, despite that she herself was a recent [University of Southern California] graduate student.”
At this point, Schiff faced a tough choice: either spend the entirety of her savings on multiple pad machines in India, or buy only one pad machine and use the rest of the money to create a documentary to raise awareness — and, potentially, even more donations. Schiff would make the right decision, as the documentary has already raised enough money to fund a second machine in a neighboring village and heightened overall awareness on the topic, according to Schiff.
The shooting took place over a few weeks in 2017, with a film crew of just five. Six months after filming, Schiff returned to see that the women had not only started their own pad business, FLY, but that they had also affected villages across the country.
Touring several film festivals throughout 2018, the short documentary has already won 12 awards, including Best Short Film at the prestigious American Film Festival. Although only the trailer has been publicly released, “Period. End of Sentence.” will soon be released on Netflix, and will premiere publicly for Kenyon students in the coming weeks, courtesy of Kenyon Cinearts.
From her high school audiences to the Academy Awards, Ruby Schiff has seen the journey as an opportunity to learn and grow.
“As an executive producer on this film, I’ve had to step into a new role,” Schiff said. “As a pretty introverted person, I’ve had to learn how to break through some of those personal barriers … This project has given me so much more confidence in myself and has shown me the amazing things that can happen when women empower women.”