Arunachalam Muruganantham, from Tamil Nadu, India has revolutionized the sanitary napkins used during menstruation. Still a taboo subject in India where only twelve percent women (according to the 2011 survey by AC Nielsen, commissioned by the Indian government) have access to proper hygienic products, these low-cost sanitary pads are a boon to this country. Women even use rags, sawdust, leaves, and ashes as they cannot afford the commercial sanitary napkins.
Discovering that his wife still used rags during her periods because the ones available in the market were expensive, Muruganantham set out to work on the napkins himself. He even became the subject of ridicule in the village as he tested the experimental pads on himself, using a bladder with animal blood but still did not give up. He became the man who wears sanitary napkins: a mad concept for most.
He also discovered that the napkins usually used cellulose fibers derived from pine bark wood pulp which gave these pads the ability to absorb. But the machine that made these cost over 35 lac INR. His own invented machines that cost around 65 thousand INR have paved a way for low-cost sanitary napkins. He came into the limelight when he won the National Innovation Award. These machines have slowly spread to 1300 villages in 23 states of India. Eventually, Muruganantham’s wife, mother and fellow villagers who previously ostracized and condemned him, have come to accept him too.
The TIME magazine has named him one of the 100 most Influential people of 2014. He was also awarded Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2016.
“No human being ever died of poverty. Everything happens because of ignorance,” says Arunachalam Muruganantham.
In popular culture, he has inspired a documentary based on him titled ‘Menstrual Man (2013) and also an upcoming film ‘Pad Man’. The work of Arunachalam Muruganantham is commendable and inspiring and gives hope to a country where the women die because of lack of basic hygiene.