The statistic on percentage of Indian women who use sanitary pads to deal with their periods is shocking. Only 10 percent use napkin towels during their menstrual cycles. In other words, about 300 million women still follow unhygienic methods and one out of five girls drop out of the school because of menstruation.
While we express shock and move on, one man took action and brought about a major change by sanitary pad revolution. Arunachalam Muruganantham, famously known as India's Menstrual Man, invented a machine that produces low-cost sanitary napkins.
Like all inspiring stories, Muruga's effort to bring about a social change was also met with obstacles, social stigma, relationship issues and so on. However, the determination and a strong belief in his work and in himself shot him to worldwide fame.
Things you should know about Muruga:
To impress his wife: Muruga first produced handmade sanitary pads to impress his wife. He wanted to surprise his newly-wed wife with gifts. And when he saw she was using rag clothes during her periods, Murugan decided to make her healthy pads.
The first prototype was a fail: Muruga made his first sanitary pads with a roll of cotton wool and had Shanti to test them and give her feedback. His wife's feedback on the homemade prototype was: 'it is useless.' It did not discourage him, rather it strengthened his determination to find the solution to the problem.
No support: Muruga's another obstacle in his research was to find volunteers to test his prototypes and give a detailed feedback. His wife helped him in testing, but he always had to wait a month before she could test his new pads.
'Do it yourself': Muruga decided to test his new prototypes himself by using an artificial uterus. He filled the rubber bladder with animal blood and tied it around his waist. He would release some blood through a tube from the artificial uterus to sanitary pads in his underpants while doing his everyday activities of walking and riding cycle.
Social stigma: His noble efforts earned him a backlash from the society and family and he was called a “pervert” by his neighbours. His wife left him after he refused to give up his research and she sent a divorce notice too.
The hard work paid off: In 2006, Muruga designed a machine that would produce affordable sanitary pads that wouldn't cost more than Rs 2 per pad. It took two years for him to find the right material and another four years to chalk out a right process to produce pads. It was also recognised by the IIT, Chennai as the best innovation for the betterment of society.
No looking back: Since Muruga's sanitary napkin-making machine hit the market, he has received several awards and international media attention. However, he has refused to sell his machine to corporates. Instead, he sells them to self help groups empowering women. Now there are more than 800 brands producing his pads. He has also begun exporting his machines to developing countries.
Earlier this year he was also awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award. He has spoken at TED Talk, given guest lectures at prestigious universities like Harvard and Stanford. In 2014, Time magazine named him among 100 most influential people in the world.
Happily ever after: After five years of separation Shanti re-united with Muruga after his innovation made headlines and received a worldwide appreciation.