1 in 5 girls in India drop out of school due to menstruation. Menstruation is a natural process and to think that some girls cannot get educated because of their monthly cycle is horrendous.
When I heard about this incredible story on the news, I really wanted to share it. Arunachalam Murungantham, the son of two handloom weavers in India, noticed that his wife would use cut up rags as pads because the she could not afford to buy them. When he asked her what they were for, she immediately replied that it was none of his business and slapped him across the cheek. It is horrible that not only in India but also in the United States and countries all over the world, us women have to hide our periods. When I walk to the bathroom, I try to slyly hide my tampon in my pocket so no one will see it. All women bleed but talking about it is “inappropriate.”
Muruga was so distraught that Shanti was using unhygienic methods to deal with her periods. His wife, like the other 300 million women in India who cannot afford safe menstrual hygiene products, must resort to either bleeding through their clothes or using rags.
Muruga decided to develop his own prototype for cheap sanitary pads. He bought sheets of cotton and cut them into sections. He developed his first prototype in two days. His wife Shanti tested the new pad but didn’t like it, and since she could only test out his prototypes for the days she was on her period, he started asking female medical students to test out his design. They were too shy to give him feedback, so instead he started wearing the pads himself and made an artificial uterus with animal blood in it attached to tubes. While he walked, the contraption slowly released a small amount of blood.
Muruga’s family and friends thought he was disgusting for researching menstruation and his wife even divorced him from embarrassment. Their disapproval did not stop him from continuing his research. After two years, he developed a functional pad material and process. He also made 3 machines that any uneducated woman could use to make pads. The pads were 50% cheaper than other pads. Now there are 877 brands making his pads, using 1300 machines, in 27 Indian states. 17 countries also import his machines but he won’t sell the machines to corporations.
I think Muruga is a hero. Despite the negative feedback from his family and friends, he knew that he could help millions of women. His invention helps women’s health, education, and future. He was even named in TIME magazine as “one of the 100 most influence people in the world in 2014.” His machines cost $950 compared to some pad machines that can cost $500,000. Some women can barely afford food, so the thought of buying a tampon is not an option. I love how he used his creativity and drive to help change the world, all with one pad at a time.