Sanitary napkins for poor women

Indian invention reaches poor African women

Anyone watching feminine hygiene advertising of various brands of sanitary napkins for women is led to believe that only their product can provide comfortable and carefree life for women on those three days. The concepts of such advertisements are designed to target women in all walks of life, making all kinds of claims, say a dancer can dance, an executive can work, a sportswoman can ride a bicycle or so, as if they are normal on those days. The advertisements go far in to the psychology of women and even instil fear about illness if they do not use their products.

We should be only happy that women feel good by using these products, but we are concerned about the exorbitant price of the napkins which prohibits the poor woman from buying and using the napkins. Is it fair to allow such discrimination? Only rich and middle class women could afford to buy those MNC products to tide over those three days of their natural menstruation cycle comfortably; The poor woman were using old cotton cloth etc, which caused many health hazards.

The MNCs always try to manufacture and sell any product which is essentially used by each person or family in any country. Such product shall be in a constant or increasing demand. That is the expanse of a global market. By this way the MNCs spread their wings in all countries, grow making manifold profit beyond a reasonable margin to become rich and rich. But the fair minded persons express their concern about commercialization of the Food including water and Medicines including the sanitary products which are essential for up keeping of a healthy and clean human body. Certain items in this category are beyond the reach of the poor.

And the good news now is that poor woman all over the world can buy and use sanitary napkins at an affordable price.

How is it possible?

Let us go back by two years to villages in Tamil nadu

A school dropout from Coimbatore, Arunachalam Muruganandam ( 43) invented a sanitary napkin machine which could produce 1000 pieces of napkins in just eight hours at a cost of Rs.1.00 per piece. This machine was priced at Rs.85,000/-only. The napkin produced by this machine was not only inexpensive but also environment-friendly and hygienic. This machine has got the potential of marginalising the MNCs who manufacture sanitary napkins and is about to force them to reduce the prices of their products.

Mini Sanitary napkin machine

Mini Sanitary napkin machine.

Several women Self Help Groups ( SHG) promoted by the Government of Tamil nadu and the Nationalised banks acquired this mini sanirtary napkin machine and started manufacturing the napkins to sell at a price of just Rs.2.00 per napkin in rural areas. A rural entrepreneur from Ramanathapuram reported that the SHG of three women employed six more women to run a sanitary napkin machine could earn a profit of Rs.20,000 per month.

In a remote village Mekala Chinnampally in Krishnagiri District, the poor Girl students used double inner wear or cloth to keep away stains since they could not buy sanitary napkins. More students preferred to stay away from schools in those days.
The authorities of District administration came with an idea of installing napkin vending machine inside the toilet of the Government school. The vending machine cost only Rs.8000/- and a low cost incinerator Rs.1500/- The sanitary napkins would be made available at a low cost by the self help groups who produced napkins using the mini napkin machine.

“The response of the students has been positive, Several remote village schools where girls haven’t even seen a sanitary napkin will now have a vending machine and most importantly, don’t have to bunk class,” said Ganesh Murthy, UNICEF consultant. About 570 teachers in the district have been trained to introduce children to sanitary napkins. “The UNICEF and the state government have broken the stigma surrounding female hygiene.”

In rural areas which are yet to transform to modernity owing to cultural liabilities, the girl students even hesitate to talk about their inconvenience and are shy of visiting a pharmacy or shop to ask for a napkin. Such difficulty is now removed as we hear a student saying “Before the napkin vending machine was set up in our school, we used to be very worried while coming to school, as we were using clothes before being introduced to sanitary napkins. We are required to put in two rupees into the machine and it returns a napkin. Our teachers taught us how to use them. We also have a place where we can burn the used napkins ( the incinerator) ”

That is the success story reported two years back.

And Now?

Professor Thomas M. Stove of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT), Mechanical department, after learning the success story of the invention by Muruganandam and the widespread use of this machine in India enhancing rural hygiene has arranged for a contract between MIT and Muruganandam for buying the machine. The shipment of his sanitary napkin machines is to begin shortly.

Muruganandam says “Rather than giving cash and product grants, the MIT plans to supply my machines to several poor African states so that the women there will start using this inexpensive hygienic napkin. The initiative will also spawn several women’s self-help groups (SHGs) making decent profits by running these machines,” showers heartfelt appreciation for the inventor Muruganandam, the Government authorities, the self help groups, UNICEF and MIT for their concern, particularly to Mr. Muruganandam for his idea making a global impact. The achievement of Muruganandam shall be considered less if it is mere an invention, it is great if it is looked at as a social service benefitting millions of poor women around the world.


The world will flock around one
devoted to honest social service

( ThiruValluvar 1025)

Written by Malarthamil

Malarthamil is a civil engineer and writer-poet inspired by Thirukkural – a classical Tamil poetry that expounds various aspects of life.


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