The Man Who Wore a Maxi Pad to Invent a Better One

A homeless man once approached me in a grocery store parking lot and asked me to buy maxi pads for his wife. I understood the importance and did so right away. If a woman can't afford maxi pads, then she's going to have a bad time. That's why Arunachalam Muruganantham decided to invent a maxi pad that was affordable and accessible for India's rural poor who used rags, leaves, and newspapers as substitutes.

He devised a prototype and set about trying to find female test subjects. His failed efforts cost him greatly:

He tried to get female medical students to wear them and fill out feedback sheets, but no woman wanted to talk to a man about such a taboo topic. His wife, thinking his project was all an excuse to meet younger women, left him. After repeated unsuccessful research attempts, including wearing panties with his do-it-yourself uterus, he eventually hit upon the idea of distributing free napkins to the students and collecting the used ones for study. That was the last straw for his mother. When she encountered a storeroom full of bloody sanitary napkins, she left too.


Muruganantham discovered that turning pine wood into a maxi pad is actually a complex and expensive process, so he spent years trying to simplify and cheapen it. He was successful:

Powered by electricity and foot pedals, the machine de-fibers the cellulose, compresses it into napkin form, seals it with non-woven fabrics, and finally sterilizes it with ultraviolet light. He can now make 1,000 napkins a day, which retail for about $.25 for a package of eight.

Though he’s won numerous awards (and won his wife back) he doesn’t sell his product commercially. "It’s a service," he says. His company, Jayaashree Industries, helps rural women buy one of the $2,500 machines through NGOs, government loans, and rural self-help groups. "My vision is to make India a 100% napkin-using country," said Muruganantham at the INK conference in Jaipur. "We can create 1 million employment opportunities for rural women and expand the model to other developing nations." Today, there are about 600 machines deployed in 23 states across India and in a few countries abroad.


Link -via Gizmodo | Photo (unrelated) via Flickr user scaredy_cat

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My story is much the same. I used to go down to the banks of the Ganghes with a shirt that read, "Bikini Inspector." My heart was pure. I desired to work for the public safety. Surprisingly, I was repeatedly sprayed with hot curry and driven away like an unwanted dog.
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i would think the 'cup' method, like mooncup, would be a better choice for this area. They claim to last for quite a few years and are a one time purchase which would also be detrimental in areas where there are no proper waste processing facilities and everything ends up on the streets.
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