India’s ‘menstruation man’ reinvents women's health care

Muruga became notorious in the neighborhood where people had started thinking he is perverted

News Desk May 15, 2016
Indian man Arunachalam Muruganantham has revolutionized the sanitary towel for millions of women in India. PHOTO: ALJAZEERA

Indian man Arunachalam Muruganantham has revolutionised the sanitary towel for millions of women in India.

Not only is Muruga selling 1,300 sanitary towel making machines to 27 states, he has recently begun exporting them to developing countries all over the world. In turn, this has created jobs for women in rural India.

It all began in 1998, when Muruga, son of poor handloom weavers in South India, noticed that his wife was using dirty rags to manage her menstruation because she couldn’t afford sanitary pads. Shocked, Muruga saw it as a chance to impress his wife and decide to make her sanitary pads himself.

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Although he failed to impress her with his first attempt at the sanitary towel, for which he got ‘devastating feedback’, he continued his efforts and eventually came up with a better solution. Muruga started testing with different materials, however he had to wait a month before his wife could test each prototype.

To avoid the monthly wait Muruga asked medical students at a university close to his village to test his pads, but the students were too shy to give him detailed feedback.

Left with no choice, Muruga decided to test the sanitary pads himself. He built a uterus using a rubber bladder, filled it with animal blood and attached it to his hip. A tube led from the artificial uterus to the sanitary pad he wore. He simulated the menstrual flow by pressing on the bladder.

Muruga became notorious in the neighborhood where people started thinking he is perverted. As the gossip spread, his wife also left him.

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However, Muruga didn’t give up. This was no longer just about his wife. After learning during his research that only ten to twenty per cent women in India had access to menstrual hygiene products, Muruga was on a greater mission; to produce low-cost sanitary pads for all the girls and women in his country.

It took him two years to find the right material and four years to develop the right way to process it. Nearly six years after he began, Muruga came up with an easy-to-use machine for producing low-cost sanitary pads, priced at US$950, whereas imported machines cost over US$500,000.

Today he is one of the most renowned social entrepreneurs in India.

This article originally appeared on ALJAZEERA

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