Arunachalam Muruganantham is a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, India. He is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine and has innovated grass-roots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.
He left school at the age of 14 as he lost his father and had to help his mother support the family. Not going to high school made him more curious about everything around him.
In 1998 he was newly married and his world revolved around his wife, Shanthi, and his widowed mother. One day he saw Shanthi was hiding something from him. He was shocked to discover what it was – rags, “nasty cloths” which she used during menstruation.
He was shocked to learn that women don’t just use old rags, but other unhygienic substances such as sand, sawdust, leaves and even ash.
Muruganantham wanted to provide a clean, low-cost sanitary pad for his wife after discovering that she used dirty unhygienic rags.
He experimented by making pads out of cotton, which did not work. He used his experiments on his wife and sisters to check if his indigenous pads were effective but they refused to continue using them after a few trials.
When he launched his mission to produce a sanitary pad that was affordable, he was left all alone on his journey. His wife and mother left him and his village ostracized him thinking he was going mad.
Muruganantham approached female medical students to try out his product, but they were shy and refused. He then decided to wear the sanitary pad himself
It took the school dropout from a poor family in Tamil Nadu almost five years to build the machine, and during that period he faced devastating social ostracism and nearly lost his family.
Muruganantham re-engineered a sanitary machine, and in 2006 it won the award for the best innovation for the betterment of society from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai.
Muruganantham’s machine creates jobs and income for many women, and affordable pads enable many more women to earn their livelihood during menstruation.
Today he is successfully running the self-sustaining sanitary napkin business, Jayashree Industries.
His mini-machines, which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, have been installed in 23 of the 29 states of India. He is currently planning to expand the production of these machines to 106 nations.
Arunachalam Muruganantham has done something, which is a very difficult task even for men, particularly in India. He invented a set of machines which manufacture sanitary pads for women at a lower price and the best part is that he is employing women to make these pads, thus creating job opportunities for them.
Muruganantham mostly sells the machines to non-governmental organisations and self-help groups. The average cost of each sanitary napkin is Rs2.5 ($0.04).
One Indian social entrepreneur has given women from low income groups in India dignity, by making it possible for them to afford to buy sanitary towels and provide them with an income at the same time.
Mr. Muruganantham has been accorded the recognition as Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World 2014 for his accomplishments.
Source: The Quint, BBC, New Inventions, Wikipedia, Youthkiawaaz, Pixr8, Thelogicalindian, Content.monsterindia, QZ
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