This man lost everything helping millions

Arunachalam Muruganantham at TED@Bangalore

Arunachalam Murugananthame [credit: TED@Bangalore]

“Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, Hillary and Tenzing were the first to conquer Everest and I, Murugan, became the first man in the world to wear a sanitary pad.”

The start of a journey…

In 1998, Arunachalam Muruganantham was shocked at the unhygienic rags his wife used to cope with her period. He was even more shocked to learn that to afford sanitary towels, she couldn’t afford to buy milk for the family.

Mr Muruganantham decided to invent an affordable solution for his wife and women like her.

A long and winding road

He tried many designs and materials, but struggled to find enough volunteers to help him test his ideas. He even created a fake uterus from a football bladder filled with goat’s blood. He would wear this as he went about his day, testing his pad designs.

Unfortunately, he was shunned in his village for these strange activities, and eventually even his wife left him – the very person to have inspired his quest.

Undeterred, he continued!

He studied the commercially available products, trying to understand how to emulate them. He had to obtain samples of materials like processed wood pulp, and build simple machines for processing them.

After four more years, he had refined his design into a cheaply manufactured machine, which could be operated with minimal training.

A happy ending

His machine won a national innovation award, and after his prize was presented by President of India, Pratibha Patil, he found himself in the limelight.

After over five years out in the cold, his wife, and the village who shunned him realized that perhaps he wasn’t a crazy, deranged pervert, and he was reunited with them.

His machine, which he refuses to profit from, is now used in thousands of villages in India. Each one not only provides employment, but also improved the lives of millions of women.

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