The man who brought affordable sanitary towels to India is getting a movie made about him

BEN GABBE/GETTY IMAGES; YouTube screen grab / Sony Pictures India

A welder who created a cheap sanitary towel for women in India is having a Bollywood film made about how he managed to do it.

A welder by trade and originally from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Arunachalam Muruganantham dropped out of school at the age of 14.

He embarked on a project to create an affordable menstrual pad made from locally sourced materials after finding out his wife was using dirty a cloth during her period.

During an INKtalk back in 2012, he recalled the moment.

[It was] a very nasty cloth…even I don’t use that cloth to clean my two wheeler.

His wife, Shanthi, told him that in order for her to be able to afford the sanitary products from the shops, she would have to cut the home food budget.

Despite this, her husband went to the shops the following day and purchased her pads as a gift.

I went to the pharmacy to buy her the pads as a gift. The shop assistant wrapped it in newspaper like it was a smuggled item.

It was only 10 grams of cotton, but cost 40 times its worth.

I thought of how most women in rural areas couldn’t afford them. I wanted to change my wife from unhygienic to hygienic practices during menstruation.

Everything started from my wife and now it’s gone global.

At first, his creations were tried out by his wife, and later he managed to get his sister-in-laws involved in trialling and reviewing them.

He even tried it for himself, by filling an old ball with goat's blood.

I walked, cycled and ran with it under my clothes, constantly pumping blood out to test my sanitary pad’s absorption rates.

Everyone thought I had gone mad. I used to wash my bloodied clothes at a public well and the village concluded I had a sexual disease.

India’s social structure makes it difficult for men and women to openly discuss menstruation –a taboo topic – and he struggled with the social stigma.

His wife left him for a number of years, and people in the village ostracised him. Added to that, he was finding it difficult to find female volunteers to test his product.

Only 12 per cent of women in India can access sanitary products, and according to CNNjournalist Ira Trivedi:

Most women in India (88 per cent) still use scraps of cloth, newspaper, ash, wood shavings, dried leaves, hay or even cow dung -- basically the cheapest, most absorbent material that they can lay their hands on.

The turning point came in 2009, when he won an award from India's National Innovation Foundation. He was able to distribute machines to rural areas where local women could manufacture the pads.

He hopes that the movie can help women from all over the country access sanitary products.

Here's the trailer for 'Pad Man', which will be released in India on 9 February:

H/T Guardian

More: How to donate sanitary products to British girls who can't afford them

More: This is how much tampon tax you've paid in your life

The Conversation (0)