Pad Man to the rescue! India’s menstrual hygeine hero

From school dropout, to welder, to sanitary towel entrepreneur: Arunachalam Muruganantham has led a unique life, even more so since it was given the Bollywood biopic treatment.

Pad Man, released in February, tells Muruganantham’s life story, which changed forever when he discovered that his wife was using dirty rags during her period. Such alternatives, along with sawdust and newspaper, are common practice in a country where just 12 per cent of women have access to sanitary products, leaving the rest at risk of severe infection.

In response, Muruganantham designed a low-cost, easy to use machine that can manufacture affordable sanitary towels using locally sourced materials and labour. More than 600 machines are now operating in 23 out of 29 Indian states.

Muruganantham hopes the film will help break down social stigma. In some rural areas, the custom of gaokor shames women into staying in isolated huts outside their homes during menstruation; around 25 per cent of Indian girls skip school while on their periods.