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Global Menstrual Hygiene Day: Arunachalam Muruganantham and his low cost 'pad making' machine

By Vikas

Menstruation is a normal biological process and about 800 million women/ girls menstruate on any given day. Yet, periods continue to be shrouded in taboos and myths. Women and girls continue to be stigmatised and excluded. Today (May 28), on Global Menstrual Hygiene Day (MH Day), NGOs, UN agencies, governments NGOs, UN agencies, governments and corporates all over the world will join forces to raise awareness and catalyse action for one of the most neglected social issues: menstruation and menstrual hygiene management (MHM).

Tamil Nadu activist Arunachalam Muruganantham

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.

The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 report shows that the use of sanitary napkins among Indian women is 48.5 per cent in rural, 77.5 per cent in urban and 57.6 per cent total.

Arunachalam Muruganantham's contribution to menstrual hygiene:

Tamil Nadu activist Arunachalam Muruganantham is one of the first few "do-gooders" in the country who decided to work in the field of menstrual health and hygiene by providing low-cost sanitary napkins to poor women in rural areas.

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. 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.

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.[5] 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.

OneIndia News with PTI inputs

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