New Delhi, May 27: Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day which is aimed at spreading awareness about one of the most neglected social issues - menstruation and menstrual hygiene management (MHM). On this day, we ought to remember Tamil Nadu's Arunachalam Muruganantham whose contribution to menstrual hygiene is immense.
Muruganantham fought taboo and stigma surrounding menstruation, and did research on his own to develop a machine. He is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.
Menstruation is a taboo topic, as bleeding women/girls are mostly considered as impure and dirty in India, like in many parts of the world. Thus most often the menstrual health and hygiene parts get ignored. If reports are to be believed, due to lack of awareness and poverty, thousands of menstruating women/girls don't use sanitary napkins in India.
Muruganantham's 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.
In 2014, he was included in Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. His innovation has helped thousands of women. In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
What drove Muruganantham to invent low cost machine?
Shortly after marriage, Murugananthan discovered his wife collecting filthy rags and newspapers to use during her menstrual cycle, as sanitary napkins made by multinational corporations were expensive. Troubled by this, he started designing experimental pads. Initially, he made pads out of cotton, but these were rejected by his wife and sisters. It took him two years to discover that the commercial pads used cellulose fibers derived from pine bark wood pulp. The fibres helped the pads absorb while retaining shape.
Imported machines that made the pads cost Rs 35 million. So, he devised a low-cost machine that could be operated with minimal training. He sourced the processed pine wood pulp from a supplier in Mumbai and the machines would grind, de-fibrate, press and sterilize the pads under ultraviolet before packaging them for sale. The machine costs Rs 65,000.