Meet Arunachalam Muruganantham. The son of poor weavers from South India; he was so moved by the plight of his wife who was unable to buy sanitary pads for herself and used old rags, that he decided to make them himself.
In 1998 he made a prototype sanitary pad out of cotton rolls and asked his wife to test them. She was unimpressed and decided to go back to her old ways.
But not a man to give up, Muruga started experimenting with different materials. He even asked a few medical students to volunteer to use them. Though they used his sanitary pads but were too shy to give him any feedback. Faced with this setback he again decided to take things in his own hands. He decided to test the sanitary pads himself. He built a uterus using a rubber bladder, filled it with animal blood and fixed it to his hip. A tube led from the artificial uterus to the sanitary pad in his underpants. By pressing the bladder he simulated the menstrual flow.
As a consequence, people started ridiculing him and called him a pervert. Unable to deal with the pressure his wife divorced him.
But Muruga was a man on the mission. He was determined to produce low-cost sanitary pads in a country where 1 in every 5 girls drop out of school due to menstruation.
It took him two years to find the right material and another four years to produce it. The result was an easy-to-use machine for producing low-cost sanitary pads. The machine is 5 times cheaper than an imported one. Now women’s group can buy his machine, produce their own sanitary pads and sell the surplus and thus creating jobs in rural India. His has sold over 1300 machines in 27 states and has recently started exporting them to developing countries.
Muruganantham with his invention
In 2014 TIME magazine named him the 100 most influential people in the world.
In spite of several offers from corporations to buy his machine, he has consistently refused to do so,instead preferring to sell to women’s self-help groups.
In a country where 300 million women have no access to safe menstrual hygiene products, people like Muruganantham are indeed an inspiration.
Here’s a video of Muruganantham giving a TED Talk: