Back in 1998, Muruganantham noticed that his newlywed wife was hiding something behind her back, only to discover that it was a rag she wore during her period as a sort of sanitary towel. He asked his wife why she didn’t buy pads and she replied that buying pads would mean she would not be able to afford milk or run their household.
Shocked and disgusted, Muruganantham wanted to do something to please his young wife and so he started making his own sanitary pads with cotton wool and tape. His wife and his sisters (who became his guinea pigs) disapproved the first experimental prototype and this lead to his obsession to perfect a cost-effective pad.
Since his female family members’ period only arrived once a month, Muruganantham started to become impatient and asked young medical students for help, but they were too shy to reveal any concerns. Muruganantham took matters into his own hands and started testing it on himself with a makeshift uterus made from a rubber bladder filled with animal blood.
He was seen as a “pervert” and became an outcast in his community since menstruation is still seen as taboo in India and that’s when his wife, Shanti, decided to leave him. However, this didn’t stop the "Menstruation Man" from pursuing his initial goal.
It took him several years to find a solution to the problem after eventually finding the perfect material: an easy-to-make machine that not only helped to increase the creation and use of sanitary pads, but also created jobs for rural women in India.
So far, over 1300 machines in 27 states across India have been installed and exports to other countries across the globe have begun as well.
According to BBC, a survey in 2011 saw that only 12% of women in India use sanitary pads, which means there are 300 million women without access to feminine hygiene products. Some women are embarrassed to dry or wash the rags they use during their periods, which means that they do not get cleaned or disinfected properly. 70% of reproductive diseases in India are as a result poor menstrual health and hygiene.
In 2014, TIME named Muruganantham one of their 100 Most Influential People In The World. He also gave a TED Talk where he said that he wants to see a “100% sanitary napkin using country” in his lifetime. Muruganantham now lives with his wife, who came back to him after 5 years apart, and their daughter, Preeti, and is still changing the way women get to see and use sanitary pads one period at a time.
Check out his story in this Al Jazeera video: