Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social reformer from Coimbatore, changed the scene of how female health is taken into consideration and made people realise the importance of hygiene for them. He has the credit of inventing low-cost sanitary pads making machines. The machines are mini-machines and can produce pads at about one-third of the cost of the market rate of the pads. His idea, innovation and need to do something for the women, is truly inspiring and due to which in the year 2014, he was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. Even the Indian government, too recognized his invention and praised him in 2016 by honouring him with Padma Shri.
It all started in 1998, he was newly married and saw his wife Shanti, using old rags and newspapers to deal with her period days as the sanitary pads were very expensive and there was no affordability. “The difference between old rags and sanitary pads is affordability.” said Arunachalam Muruganantham during a speech at Ted talks. Shanti, her wife said if she purchased pads for herself and for her sister during periods, they had to cut on the family meals and the milk. This pricked Muruganantham. In an effort to impress his newly wed wife, he made a sanitary pad himself by using come cotton filling and then covering it with another cotton wrap. He then in a “surprise mood” asked his wife to close her eyes, as he would be giving a wonderful gift to her, not a diamond necklace or so, but a gift which would be very useful to her. To her shock, it was a sanitary pad. She bluntly refused to use it and instead told him that she would use rags to deal with her days. He, then decided to share his innovation with some medical college girls, who would help him in the innovation. Even those girls were shy about sharing the feeling of periods and the pad with him.
So, he decided to use the pad himself. He used a bladder with a pump along with animal blood and would supply the blood at regular intervals which fall on his pad. Muruganantham then understood that the blood was leaking out of the pad, and hence the ladies were being reluctant to use it. It took him two years to find that the pads were made up of cellulose fibres which were derived from pine bark wood pulp. The fibres helped to absorb blood while retaining the shape of the pad. So, he invented his own machine which costed him Rs. 65000 (US$1000) only as compared to the ones being imported which cost around US$550,000. He used supplies of cellulose fibres, cotton and other products from the local market in Mumbai and produced the pads cost-effectively.
Who knew, a son of hand-loom weaver would make such a new technology and would create history. His father died early in a road accident and his mother worked as farm labour to make both ends meet. He then had to drop school so as to help his mother in the sustenance of his family.
A noble thought, which came in his mind made him the Padman of the country. He does not want to make money out of his technology, but what he wants is that machine should be operated by women of SHGs so that they become independent. Due to his technology he has even inspired women to take up jobs in the villages and hence has created self-employment in rural areas. In a country, where periods are considered a taboo, he openly discussed it in villages, cities, big institutions, like IIMs, IITs and even Harvard. He doesn’t feel shy while talking about this natural process in females and even wants men to create awareness about the same. His aim is to create a nation, with every woman having access to a sanitary pad. For Muruganantham, it’s not a taboo, nor it’s bad, but it’s a thing with which women should deal with hygiene and cleanliness. His clear and noble cause for the upliftment of women, to create awareness among them and to provide access to the women of sanitary pads, is truly remarkable. His technology is now being used in 23 states of India and he is planning to take his technology abroad. Even a film is made on him, named as Padman to honour his contribution to society.