Poor women in India have a man to thank for their low-cost menstrual supplies. Arunachalam Muruganantham risked his marriage and his family in order to revolutionize the production of maxi-pads so that they be made more affordable to poor women. In much of rural India, women were using rags, leaves or even newspapers as pads. Girls often miss school during their periods, or will drop out all together, because they’re unable to manage their menstruation.
The Indian high school dropout devised a low-cost sanitary pad prototype, but because of the taboo around women’s periods in the country, he couldn’t find women who were willing to wear the new pads and report back to him on their effectiveness. His wife refused to participate in his experiment, too, and actually left him — claiming that his interest in periods was just a way to meet younger women.
So Muruganantham went to the extreme. He fashioned a wearable fake menstruating uterus out of goat’s blood and tested out his sanitary napkins himself — for a whole week. That is dedication. Once he found a product he liked, he then set about figuring ways to make it affordable, which involved creating an inexpensive machine and process to produce the sanitary napkins. His invention can produce more than 1,000 pads a day and is so cheap to run that he can afford to charge only $.25 cents for a pack of 8.
But Muruganantham doesn’t sell the sanitary napkins commercially. Instead, his business model is to share the wealth, and to put the business into the hands of rural women. So he’s using a microcredit loan model to help communities of women purchase the machines necessary to produce and sell their own maxi pads. “It’s a service,” he says. “We can create 1 million employment opportunities for rural women and expand the model to other developing nations.” So far, around 600 machines have been deployed in 23 states across India. Better reproductive health, more girls in school and profitable businesses for India’s rural women. How friggin’ awesome is that? [FastCoexist]