Akshay Kumar’s next biopic, Padman, showcases the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham. Muruganantham is from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, and was affected by the struggles the women in his family faced, during their menstrual cycles.
Since menstruation is a taboo subject, especially in the rural parts of India, the women were not comfortable discussing products which could help them. Imagine the reaction Muruganantham got when a man suggested products which could help them be more comfortable when they were on their periods!
Even with the lack of support from the women in his family, Muruganantham endured and developed thin pads that were more effective and hygienic than the rags that the women in his villages used during menstruation.
Today, he is an inspirational figure and a well-known social entrepreneur.
His low-cost sanitary pad making machine has been widely praised as a critical step in changing women’s lives in India.
Here is a list of a five such people and organisations, who have worked to make periods more comfortable for women, across different parts of India:
1. EcoFemme (Tamil Nadu): Providing washable and reusable pads to girls.
Ecofemme works in Tamil Nadu and has been teaching girls in government schools about the process of menstruation in an interactive way. The girls are informed about the functions of reproductive organs, why women get periods etc. The girls take an oath to pass on this knowledge to at least one more person.
They even produce, sell and distribute pads that can be washed and reused, with a hope to significantly reducing carbon footprints.
2. Saathi (Ahmedabad): Producing sanitary napkins that decompose in six months.
This start-up uses the readily available banana tree fibre to make sanitary napkins. The company used the trial-and-error method in a control group of 600 women and successfully manufactures pads that are thin, chemical-free and 50% more absorbent than typical pads available in the market.
These pads decompose in just six months, as compared to the 500 years that typical pads take.
3. Amani Dabriwala (Mumbai): Dedicated her gap year to school girls.
Amani is 19 and has just passed out of Class 12. She is on a gap year and is dedicating this free time to educate girls studying in Class 7-11, on menstrual hygiene. Amani gives talks through presentations in various government schools in Mumbai. She has also successfully installed two pad disposal machines in schools, sponsored through crowdfunding.
4. Kanika (Thrissur, Kerala): Making eco-friendly, affordable pads.
Kanika is an NGO in Kerala, which makes organic pads called “Soukhyam.”
The inspiration for their work comes from Arunachalam Muruganantham, who helped Kanika get the low-cost machinery to produce sanitary pads.
Around 50 people work in the NGO and make 200 packets of pads every month. Each packet consists of 10 pads and out of the total 200 packets manufactured, 50 are distributed at a girls’ home. The rest are sold at a minimal price of ₹43.
5. Sanitary Pad Bank (Mumbai): Crowdfunding pads for the needy.
The TEE Foundation has set up sanitary pad banks in various places in Mumbai. These banks make use of crowdfunding to bring together donors, volunteers, and the beneficiaries. You can donate funds or sanitary napkins to the banks which are then sold at a price of ₹7 for ten pads. The initiative helps the needy while also encouraging people to contribute for the benefit of society.