Sanitary Pads Spark a Revolution in India, Empowering Women
Posted byMartha Garcia
Arunachalam Muruganatham didn’t intend to start a sanitary pads revolution in India. He lived a simple life with his wife Shanthi. The couple was recently married when he discovered she had been hiding something.
Shanthi kept a box of old, used rags to deal with her period. When Muruganatham asked his wife why she didn’t buy sanitary pads, the answer was simple. She could not afford milk or other household necessities if she splurged on maxi pads.
Muruganatham’s discovery sparked his journey into the sanitary napkin industry and a quiet revolution in India, according to the BBC.1
Changing the Game
The more Muruganatham immersed himself into the realm of female menstruation, the more he was surprised. When he attempted to buy a maxi pad, it was given to him quickly, as if he were in the midst of an immoral deal. There is a lot of embarrassment and superstition surrounding menstruation in the country.
Later, he discovered many women in rural areas of India don’t use sanitary napkins, like his wife. A study published by the International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health calculated that less than one-quarter of the surveyed Indian women used sanitary pads.2 Another study of girls in Uttar Pradesh, India, published by Practical Action Publishing, indicated only about 25 percent of females followed correct menstrual hygiene practices and few used sanitary napkins.3
For Muruganatham, this information spurred him to learn as much about the industry as he could. He began developing a machine to manufacture a low-cost maxi pad and spread the technology to poor, rural villages via micro-business startups owned and operated by the women of the villages. The machine he invented spread to more than 1,300 villages in 23 Indian states, reports the BBC.1
Improving Conditions for Women
Muruganatham’s quest began as a way to help his wife. It spread, not because he wanted to capitalize from the endeavor, but to help other poor women. “I’ve accumulated no money, but I accumulate a lot of happiness,” he told the BBC.1
Reduced access to maxi pads, less frequent pad changing and using less-than-sanitary absorbency measures, like leaves or ash, can all lead to increased rates of reproductive disease and maternal mortality, according to the BBC.1 Many Indian women wash the rags used during their periods, but don’t dry them in the sun, which disinfects them, notes the BBC.1
All women should have access to basic menstrual hygiene practices, like those taken for granted in the United States. Simply put, sanitary napkins may empower females in India and around the world to break from the taboos and fear surrounding menstruation.
1Venema, Vibeke. “The Indian sanitary pad revolution.” BBC. March 4, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26260978
2Shukla, M.K., Priya, N., Srivastava, A. “A cross sectional study of knowledge and practices regarding menstrual hygiene, in undergraduate student girls of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, India.” International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health. 3(7), 2016. http://www.ijcmph.com/index.php/ijcmph/article/view/295
3Malhotra, A., Goli, S., Coates, S., Mosquera-Vasquez, M. “Factors associated with knowledge, atittudes, and hygiene practices during menstruation among adolescent girls in Uttar Pradesh.” Practical Action Publishing. 35(3), July 25, 2016. http://www.developmentbookshelf.com/doi/ref/10.3362/1756-3488.2016.021
- Posted by Martha Garcia
- On September 22, 2017