I was going to start my series on how people have put equality into practice tomorrow, but I read about Arunachalam Muruganantham today and want to share his story because it’s so brilliant. I know some people don’t want to read about periods, as Lazy Girl Running found when she blogged about menstruation and running, so if that’s you please come back tomorrow. And I’m not claiming that Muruganantham was motivated by thoughts of equality, but his actions have addressed a significant barrier that stops millions of women around the world participating fully in everyday life and so I think he’s progressing equality even if he didn’t intend to.
Muruganantham has invented a cheap machine that rural women in developing countries can use to make sanitary pads. He started exploring the idea when he got married in 1998 and discovered that his wife was hiding from him the dirty cloths she used to cope with her period each month. He went to buy her a sanitary pad and was shocked to discover how expensive it was. You can read his story on the BBC website which details how his wife and mother both moved out while he was inventing his machine, how he created a fake uterus so he could try out the pads himself (seriously!), how he was the target of gossip and criticism, and ultimately how he’s created a machine that liberates and empowers thousands of women and has the potential to do the same for millions more.
He’s chosen not to capitalise on his invention and both his wife and his mother have come back to live with him. He says, ‘I have accumulated no money but I accumulate a lot of happiness. If you get rich, you have an apartment with an extra bedroom – and then you die.’ A documentary has been made about his invention, Menstrual Man. What an amazing man.