APB Speaker Melissa Berton Recognized by "Forbes" for Her Work on Women’s Equality
16 Mar 2022
APB speaker Melissa Berton, Cofounder and Executive Director of The Pad Project, was recently named to Forbes magazine’s 50 Over 50 List of Women Who Are Leading the Way in Impact. She joins fellow APB speakers Susan McPherson, Founder and CEO, McPherson Strategies, and Winona LaDuke, Founder, White Earth Land Recovery Project, who were also honored on the list. According to Forbes, the women are being recognized for changing their communities and the world in ways big and small through social entrepreneurship, law, advocacy and education.
Berton has been a lifelong advocate for women’s equality. It was that passion that led her to start The Pad Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the idea that “a period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.
In 2013, Berton, an English teacher at Oakwood Secondary School in Los Angeles, California, traveled with a group of her students to serve as delegates to the Annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York City. It was there they learned about the plight of girls around the world, especially in low-income countries, who drop out of school with the onset of puberty due to a lack of access to affordable and hygienic menstrual supplies. They also found out about a newly invented sanitary pad-making machine that would not only produce low-cost pads, but also spur a micro-economy for the women operating the machine.
Berton and her students determined not only to raise the funds to provide a machine for their sister school in India’s rural village of Kathikera, but to also document the process on film to raise awareness about this human rights issue. Together with her students and The Pad Project team, Melissa produced the 2019 Academy Award-winning Documentary Short, Period. End of Sentence.
Since its start, The Pad Project has placed nine pad machines in three countries and is working to place eight more pad machines in four countries. It’s launched six washable pad programs in five countries and is working to launch another washable pad program soon. In the U.S., the organization started two programs to combat period poverty: Pads for All and Pads for Schools. So far, it’s partnered with 11 non-governmental organizations and grassroots organizations in eight states and four school districts in two states to provide menstrual products to those in need. It also launched The Pad Project’s Ambassador Program, which is designed to unite menstrual equity activists around the world.
Every day, Berton has the privilege of witnessing both the simultaneous beauty of her students’ physical growth into womanhood along with the intellectual growth that helps them discover the kind of women they will become, she says. Berton believes it is at this tender and transitional moment that education must be nurtured and never, ever stopped.