Arunachalam Muruganantham: Breaking Taboos, Pioneering Innovation For Women's Health

October 16, 2014 9:01 PM

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It all started on a hot summer day near the southern city of Coimbatore in India. Struck by his wife's statement that she could either have milk or sanitary napkins, Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man from a poor household who had only gone to school till the age of 14, decided to do something. He wanted to get to the bottom of why women in his community were using rags instead of sanitary towels -- rags so dirty that he would not even use them to clean his scooter. Was this a financial problem? Or one that occurred due to the lack of information about women's hygiene? The answer was both: after doing some informal research in his village, he found that less than one in 10 women were using sanitary napkins. They were expensive and women could not afford them, and they also did not know the adverse health consequences of what they used instead, sometimes sand, sawdust, leaves and even ash and mud.

Many women in rural India still face social restrictions during menstruation. They are kept away from household duties, such as cooking or collection of water, as well as barred from taking part in auspicious events or visiting temples. Even without such barriers, Muruganantham's research revealed t...

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