In an era where batman, Superman and Spiderman is a fantasy living among kids and adults, a passionate determined Indian has been working to be a pad man to help under privileged women to afford Sanitary pads. This might sound a little cringy for men and to leave without reading but his inspiration is well worth a read.
Bought up in poverty and being an early school drop out, Arunachalam Muruganatham comes from Tamil Nadu India. With his father sudden death after an accident, responsibility around the house puts pressure for him and his mother to share. Hence, he decides to work various jobs by supplying food for factory workers, sometimes as a machine tool operator, yam seller also welding to support his family.
In 1998 he decides to get married, Shanthi coming from a very conserved taboo family changed his life from here. He realised when its time of the month when women trembles in pain, Shanthi used a dirty rag to endure her menstruation flow. It is known in India that many women use Newspapers, leaves, mud, ashes and old rags at the time one of them being Shanthi.
Unaware of it its use, Arunachalam questions his wife for what purpose was the rag used to which shanthi hesitantly replied, which displeased Arunachalam that his wife was using unsanitary ways to control her menstruation flow, while having access to sanitary pads. Shanthi did not want to purchase Sanitary pads at the time because the household would have to cut down on the milk budget, if the women in the house decides to wear pads every month. For devasted Arunachalam, it was a question of affordability than accessibility
With the intention of trying to impress his wife, experiment and research began. He concluded that cotton was used in the process and that companies over priced its product. The sanitary pads which were made out of cotton which did not cost as much as it is sold in the market. Disappointed he was, to know that women are not being able to afford a basic need because of a huge gap in the production and retail prices, motivated him to make the pad for his wife sanity.
His intentions were pure and was to impress his wife. The hope of seeing his wife contently agree to accept the pad did not go well. She initially retorted then agreed to which Arunachalam had to wait for a month to hear her feedback. When time came his wife was not happy with the pad he made which made a mess in her clothes.
Realizing that depending on one person for feedback would nearly take him decades in perfecting his creation and bring it to light, he decided to pursue other women for feedback. He looked for female volunteers to give him feedback. As we can see that there is a distinct line in what is shared between men and women and the topic of menstruation is definitely a taboo, so getting feedback from women was a far-fetched idea.
Yet he was convinced it was worth a try and approached medical students who he believed would help him. Ironically those who are to become future female doctors were not ready to discuss their feedback with an elderly man. The challenges were one after the other. He did not know a way to break the stigma of menstruation for women.
Later he realized the only way to know the results was to use it on himself. His obsession over his wife sanity was crucial than making himself as a guinea pig. It was his only option left. He went ahead and built a uterus using a rubber bladder, filled it with animal blood and fixed it to his hip. A tube led from the artificial uterus to the sanitary pad in his underpants. By pressing the bladder, he simulated the menstrual flow. Unfortunately, his creations were failing and soon the neighbors realize and labels him a pervert.
The challenges he faced to impress his wife for being concerned of her sanity lead his wife to misunderstand and leave him. Then after his family who could not take the humiliation left him isolated. In spite of obstacle after obstacle Arunachalam knew how to hold his grit and pursue his goal. During his research, he had learned that only ten to twenty percent of women in India have access to proper menstrual hygiene products. This was no longer just about helping his wife. Arunachalam was on mission: to produce low-cost sanitary pads for women in his country.
He created one pad after another only find failure until he decides to contact a company to find out what material is the pad made out of. It took him 2 years to gather the right material to put together a pad at low cost. To Further to achieve his initial innovation Muruganantham constructed a machinery, he devised a low-cost machine which then produced his pads. Today, his machine has been distributed around the Indian states and especially in rural areas which have helped in the creation of employment for local women and has made it easier for the accessibility of sanitary napkins at a low cost.
Arunachalam who was a school drop out at the age of 14 and minimal knowledge in English stands opportunity to lecture Harvard students while breaking stereotype and social norms and to speak at TED Talks. His inspiration have also grabbed the attention of movie makers and realized his story featuring famous lead actors naming the movie, The Pad man. Today he is one of India’s most well-known social entrepreneurs and named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014 as per TIME magazine