Thursday, August 1, 2013

She too can Stayfree!

I look at the calender and frown. Make a mental note of going to the store on my way back from work. It's that time of the month again! After few initial shy and uncomfortable years, I now go and buy a sanitary napkin like any other grocery product. At times my husband has also run to the store, after being clearly instructed to get the 'winged' one and nothing else!! No shame in that, a husband looking after his wife's basic needs! If my Dad, the sole man in a household of three women, didn't flinch discussing our menstrual cramps and didn't tire in getting me hot water bottle in those days, then my husband better! Right?

But it's not that easy. Not that agreeable, for more than perhaps 95% of the population to talk about Menstruation/ Periods.

But one Man has set his Life to change this. One Man alone has brought about a Revolution, a (Silent) Second White Revolution as he calls it. While many Men in our country will simply shrug away from this 'women's issue', he made it his own, and in attempt to better his wife's sanitation and in turn uplift several women's hygiene and sanitation conditions, wore a sanitary pad himself!!
Known as the first man ever to wear a Sanitary Napkin, meet Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham.

With his wit and humour, he captured my attention to the alarming situation faced by millions of women in rural India - a threat to women's health - the basic need for a hygienic sanitation method during Periods!

Of the 355 million reproductive-age women in India, only 12% use absorbent pads or another sanitary method to stem the blood flow during periods, a report by AC Neilsen and Plan India found in 2010. The rest use rags, cotton, newspapers, even ashes, husk, sand and leaf. Due to such gross and unhealthy practices, no wonder that that the incidence of cervical cancer (mouth of the uterus), reproductive tract infection and other urinary diseases is the highest in Indian, especially rural women.

As I browse through the net, the statistics alarm me to no end. The stories of women being cornered from the society during periods considering them 'impure' astonish me. But amongst such searches, his name pops up and things start looking up again. After years of grueling and painful research, during which his wife and family literally dis-owned him, he came up with a low cost sanitary napkin making machine. Taking on the biggies in this niche market such as P&G and Johnson & Johnson, he created a micro & decentralized low cost model where the machine can be made available to a women's group or a Self Help group for approximately Rs 75,000. He patented his invention and set up Jayaashree Industries in 2006. Click here to view his Idea in more depth. He never intends to sell his product to a multinational or a private investor, thereby risking the loss of making millions of moolah, but intends to keep only rural women as his shareholders thus empowering them for Life! Jayashree Industries till 2012 successfully deployed around 600 such machines in 23 states of India. Without basic funding, he was able to sustain and develop this product solely from a simple idea that spurred from his wife's problem. He says, to lead a meaningful Life, all it take is a Problem! And, I couldn't have agreed more.

A humble Man, he has come long way, from a remote village near Coimbatore to foothills of Himalaya (he set up his unit near Dehradun, which MNCs will take another 20 years to reach, he remarks). He has a vision of making India a 100% sanitary napkin using country. I think and ponder how can we help to help him in this mission? Think about it Friends and suggest ways and means to make this possible. At the very basic level, I feel it should not be a such Taboo topic to speak about. To the schools I urge, take time to clearly explain that chapter on reproduction; To the Mothers I request not to wait till your Daughter starts her first day of adolescence to explain to her the mystery behind it & do not wait till you catch your son curiously sneaking in your drawer to explore what a pad is; to the society I question, where the gift of birth is given solely to the womankind and menstruation is a cycle that She goes through to achieve just that, why is she shunned away in some parts of our country from cooking, worshiping and basically leading a normal life??

Share this video. Help create awareness so that a women even in the most remote and rural part of our country can demand rightfully sanitary protection and a healthy Life. Help her, so She too can Stayfree!!

This post is written for Franklin Templeton Investmentspartnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.
To view more such inspiring videos click here.


  1. A truly inspiring post, Aditi. I salute Mr.Muruganantham and his endeavour towards making India a 100% sanitary napkin using country. Thanks for throwing light on this pertinent topic.

    1. It is such an imp topic and until I saw this video, didn't give much thought about it. Mr. Arunachalam's bold and courageous step should definitely be discussed, shared and praised!

  2. Take a bow!. This man was awesome :)

  3. Replies
    1. It is Vaishali!! Hope you spread the word...His work is fabulous!

  4. We generally tend to skip the basic and turn our focus to 'bigger issues' but this man has taken a brilliant step to safeguard the health of women in rural India!Commendable efforts Mr Muruganantham!
    I loved the introductory para Adi :) Those are such sweet memories!

  5. I was quite inspired by his innovation. There is also one NGO which is making disposal pads for village women in India. I feel it would be better if we have eco-friendly pads where we don't pile up the plastic.

    Very well written. Good luck, Aditi.

    1. Thanks a lot Saru! Another great initiative of Eco friendly pads...I think this should be introduced not just in rural areas but also urban! A step towards greener society! Thanks for enlightening on this...what is the name of the NGO?