Muruganantham is a man who created an artificial uterus to understand the menstrual cycle and break the taboos that plagued the women in his village.
In nature there are endless cycles that have evolved with time having sexual reproduction at its epicenter, since it ensures the survival of all species. In less complex organisms, sexuality is the most powerful tool to survive in a hostile environment and where the fittest thrive and carry on their genes to the next generation. The capacity to create and hold life is the most sophisticated cycle nature has or will ever create.
Taboos and superstitions exist in every society, and all kinds of myths have been created surrounding the sexual cycle of women, especially menstruation. Even now, in the twenty first century, ignorance and the difficulty in finding the right products have caused millions of women to hide and stop their normal activities when they are in their menstrual cycle.
Arunachalam Muruganantham became aware of the difficulties over 3.4 billion women in the world face –among them his wife Shanti– when making their own sanitary pads. Many women do not have access to pads because of the high prices and taxes that are put on them. He decided to work on an invention that would revolutionize the way Shanti experienced her menstrual cycle. In his village, he discovered that women would use uncomfortable, unhygienic, and ancient methods, which not only would endanger their lives, but feed the taboos and ignorance surrounding the menstrual cycle.
"Arunachalam decided to create an 'artificial uterus' with suspenders, a simple hose, and a plastic bag."
Faced with these challenges and taboos, Arunachalam decided to buy different kinds of cotton and imitate the design of the most popular menstrual pads, but he soon discovered it was harder than it looked. He decided to show the prototypes to his wife, but she refused to try out his inventions. Faced with her reticence, Arunachalam decided to create an 'artificial uterus' with suspenders, a simple hose, and a plastic bag. The objective was to carry out the normal activities women do and detect at what point in time the flow would change, and as such make the adequate changes to the design.
For days, Arunachalam wore the artificial uterus and experimented with different designs. Shanti was so disgusted with his invention that she moved out and asked for divorce. Faced with his wife's abandonment, the inventor was incredibly depressed, but within this sadness he found the strength to continue with this complicated venture. Mistake after mistake, Arunachalam improved his designs, and with some luck, he was able to buy a machine and adapt it to the production of sanitary towels.
Five years later, Shanti discovered her husband was profiled in magazines and was applauded for his great invention. The sanitary towel created by Arunachalam was able to cut down costs considerably and beat the big health corporations in India. The business scheme is not based on selling pads, but rather the machines. Women in villages can purchase the machine for 950 dollars, which is a minimum figure when comparing it to the 500 thousand dollars used on an industrial scale. Now women have the power to create as many towels as they want and the rest they can sell to the local market.
Arunachalam was reunited with Shanti, and together they are operating this new business scheme. He was offered multiple business ventures that would allow him to profit enormously from his invention; however, he decided to go against it. He believes his invention must maintain an affordable cost to generate a change within an industry, stop discrimination, and the taboos surrounding the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle for many cultures symbolizes life and a natural process women undergo; nonetheless, in other cultures it is deeply rooted in superstition. In Nepal, girls are forbidden to see the sun, go to school, and even sleep in their own homes when menstruating; read there plight here.
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