March, 07 2014
Menstrual Man: The Real Superhero

His obsession with producing sanitary pads for his wife made this man a pariah in his village. Watch the fascinating story of a man who made a machine that churns out cheap sanitary pads for India's rural women.

by Hera Diani
Wo/Men We Love
Menstrual Man 9 Thumbnail, Magdalene
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“So, it keeps flowing? You can’t hold it in like a pee?” asked a male colleague, grimacing in disgust.
 
“Oh my god, you poor thing,” he added, his facial expression was a combination of  shock, pity and relief that he was not a woman.
 
Lying on the couch with menstrual cramp in the office that day, I couldn’t help but feel penis envy. But I, too, was surprise to find out that most men barely know anything about menstruation, regardless what they learn in biology class back in high school.
 
Enter Arunachalam Muruganantham. Not only that the Indian man is knowledgeable about periods, he has devoted much of his adult life to creating affordable sanitary pads for poor women.
 
It started when he was concerned, and shocked, when he saw his wife use unsanitary rug for menstruation. When he found out that the majority of women in India couldn’t afford sanitary pads, he decided to do something about it.
 


A high school dropout, Muruganantham began to learn how to make affordable pads. The years of research and hard work came at a price. His wife, the very inspiration of his work, left him, his mother too, and the community mocked and condemned him for his obsession with used sanitary pads he received from university students, which he methodically studied to find out the best formula. Eventually he agreed to leave. In the end, however, he succeeded in building a machine that churns out feminine napkins affordable to poor women.
 
His inspiring and touching story becomes the subject of the documentary “Menstrual Man”, which underscores the importance of empowering women to combat poverty and the power in every individual to make a difference.
 
Muruganantham’s machine has now spread in 1,300 villages in 23 states in India, but it has never crossed his mind to get rich out of it.
 
"Imagine, I got patent rights to the only machine in the world to make low-cost sanitary napkins - a hot-cake product," he says. "Anyone with an MBA would immediately accumulate the maximum money. But I did not want to. Why? Because from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty - everything happens because of ignorance."