You really should read it. It’s truly extraordinary. Don’t worry, I’ll still be here when you come back….
OK. Parts of it are really creepy and weird. I mean, there is goat’s blood and women’s underwear involved. But, hey, people probably though Jonas Salk was a major freak-show when he was hanging out with diseased milk maids and shooting up with live viruses.
So the story is that Arunachalam Maruganantham (let’s just call him Mr. M.) is a regular man (not a doctor or a famous politician or anything) in India came to the realization that only about 12% of women in his country could afford to buy sanitary napkins.
Think of that… what would you do?
Young girls quit school because they can’t go out in public during their period and they can’t keep up if they miss a week out of every month. Women can’t work outside the home for the same reason. Some women use old scraps of cloth or even ashes but, for starters, that isn’t very effective. Much worse, it can lead to repeated infections that could cost them their fertility or even their lives.
As an American woman, it’s a difficult thing to even fathom. Sanitary napkins are available for pennies a piece at the dollar store. No one I know has ever really given their cost much thought. Oh, perhaps you couldn’t afford the slim name brand kind with the wings and fancy wrappers… but there is always something available.
One of the 88% “making due” was Mr. M’s wife.
This tells me that they are not a wealthy family.
Did he let his poverty stand in his way?
Are you kidding me?
This guy didn’t let anything stand in his way!
He put everything on the line in a way that few of us have ever experienced. His loved ones – even his wife and his own mother – abandoned him. He, no doubt, spent what few pennies he had. He was a laughingstock. He even faced witchcraft charges.
He couldn’t speak with American investors so he taught himself English.
He didn’t always have access to electricity, so he built a machine that was pedal-powered.
Still, he continued his work.
His perseverance paid off when he was finally, successfully, able to build a machine that could create effective, disposable sanitary napkins for about $.03 each.
Did he go into the feminine hygiene business and strike it rich?
He didn’t make the napkins. His company, Jayaashree Industries, started making the machines.
Then, he learned how to help women apply for private and government grants so that they could afford to buy one of the $2,500 machines, and he started helping the women go into business for themselves, knowing that each woman would need to hire a handful of workers to help her run her little factory.
With a maxi pad, Mr. M is changing his entire nation and, yes, the entire world.
600 women in 23 rural, poverty-stricken states in India, as well as a handful of others in other nations, have been able to acquire one of Mr. M’s machines.
That’s 600 women who will never need to use a dirty cloth or handful of ashes again.
But more than that! If they each hire 3 women to help them… now 1,800 have been helped. Not only helped by having a healthy, sanitary way to deal with their menstrual cycles, but 1,800 women now have a way to earn a living!
How many of those women have teenage daughters who will now be able to finish school?
How many of those women have neighbors who will now be able to take employment?
How many illnesses and deaths will be prevented?
Who could ever say?!
I can’t even fathom the number.
Guess what? Mr. M’s family came back to him and nobody is laughing at him now.
Now, hearing Mr. M’s story, I want you to look at me (And please know I’ll be looking in the mirror, as well) and tell this Hippie Mama that you can’t make a difference.
Are you too poor?
Can’t find anyone to help you?
Don’t have all the knowledge you need?
Well… Mr. M could have said all that too.
“The world is broken,” some say.
I say, today is the day for each of us to do something to fix it.
Thank you, Arunachalam Muruganantham, for being a true hero for women everywhere and a shining example to each of us!