‘Menstrual Man’ Collects & Studies Used Pads To Help Women. No, Seriously!


There is a man who goes out of his way to study used sanitary pads (yes, we said used) in his free time. No, he is not a sicko or a pervert, in fact he is a women’s health advocate for one of the the poorest areas in one of the largest populated countries in the world.

The man pictured above is Arunachalam Muruganantham from India and he is doing something for poor women in India that no man or women has ever really dared, or cared enough, to do.

Arunachalam learned from his new wife that many women use dirty rags, ashes and sand in lieu of proper sanitary menstrual products. That kinda shocked him into action, and he decided he was going to do something about that.

In a 2011 survey commissioned by the India’s government, AC Neilsen found that the number of women using pads in the country is just 12%, and that the remaining 88% of women use materials like the aforementioned. Having your period as a woman in India is nothing like in the western world. Women can’t visit temples or public places, they’re not allowed to cook or touch the water supply – essentially they are considered untouchable during menstruation.

“I don’t even use that cloth to clean my two-wheeler,” Muruganantham said of his wife’s unhygienic solution. “Why not make a local sanitary pad for my new wife?”

The Southern Indian man didn’t let his lack of education get in the way of doing something revolutionary, not just for his wife but for many other women like her who he felt deserved to have access to a basic health item. His first idea was to find materials that would be more cost effective, making pads cheaper to buy so women don’t have to choose between putting food on the table for their family and looking after their health.


But after creating a prototype, he came up against a major problem: a lack of female volunteers to test his product because they were too embarrassed to discuss periods out in the open in conservative country. Once again he had to use his creative head to find a solution. He used tubes, a football bladder and goats blood to create a device which simulated a woman’s period while he walked, to test out the pads.

Sounds crazy right? Yep, most revolutionaries and world-changers are. And it gets crazier. His experiments extended to examining a bunch of used pads from some medical students, which ended up being the turning point for him being known as the town crazy (he was called an adulterer and possessed by an evil spirit) and was the reason his wife ended up leaving him. Since he then had nothing to lose, he continued with his project, trying out a prototype with cotton before discovering that pads were in fact made out of cellulose from tree bark.

Four years later he has a machine which manufacturers safe and clean sanitary napkins for women in rural India, and also travels around the country training businesses and owners how to use the machine. Most machines are purchased by NGOs or women’s self help groups and each business can employ up to 10 women.

Since 23% of girls drop out of school in India due to being a social outcast, he also works with schools to educate and equip them so they can make pads for students and allow them to stay in school.

“Why wait till they are women? Why not empower girls?”

It’s not just his device that has empowered women to feel confident about their health, but he also allows women and businesses who buy the device to set their own prices and allow women in some villages to barter with food items to have access to the pads. What an awesome dude!

“Anyone with an MBA would immediately accumulate the maximum money. But I did not want to. Why? Because from childhood I know no human being died because of poverty – everything happens because of ignorance.”

At the time of the documentary being filmed (trailer below) there were over 600 machines distributed across 23 states in India and in 2009, Muruganantham received a National Innovation Foundation award from the president of India. Not bad for a high school dropout!

“Luckily I’m not educated,” he tells students. “If you act like an illiterate man, your learning will never stop… Being uneducated, you have no fear of the future.”


Once Arunachalam’s idea began taking off, he set a goal of creating jobs for one million women in India, and for the nation to be a 100% sanitary napkin-using country. It has been such a revolutionary idea that he now wants to stretch that goal even further to empower 10 million women elsewhere in the world, as he is going to other developing countries to sell his idea, and this was due to all the media attention he was getting around the world.

Apart from becoming an Indian sensation, his wife and mother (who had previously abandoned him) returned, and today his wife even helps the cause.

“I am becoming a solution provider. I’m very happy. I don’t want to make this as a corporate entity. I want to make this as a local sanitary pad movement across the globe.”

In 2012 Arunachalam gave a TED Talk sharing his radical idea with the rest of the world, which you can see in the video above. It takes a special breed of human being to forsake all else and go out of their way to help others, especially for a taboo topis such as women’s periods in a country where women aren’t exactly the heralded gender.

The video below is a trailer for ‘Menstrual Man’ documentary which we highly encourage you spend the money to watch. It shows there are men in this world who believe in female empowerment and will dedicate their live to such an important cause.

“Today [Arunachalam] Muruganantham is hailed as a visionary who is empowering rural women across India,” states the movie’s synopsis. “Menstrual man tells the inspiring story of an unlikely hero who stood up for India’s ignored. The film underscores the importance of of empowering women to combat poverty, and the power in every individual to make a difference.”

Today, Muruganantham is hailed as a visionary who is empowering rural women across India.  – See more at: http://www.menstrualman.com/#sthash.vaEEvM8M.dpuf

5 thoughts on “‘Menstrual Man’ Collects & Studies Used Pads To Help Women. No, Seriously!

  1. I’m in awe of this man! Bucking all odds to help the underdog and improve the world he lives in and help the women who live in that world also. One in a million for sure! Thanks for posting this, Asha!

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