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Menstrual Man shares story of overcoming taboos in first Vancouver talk

07/16/2015 09:42 EDT | Updated 07/16/2016 05:59 EDT
Arunachalam Muruganantham's life turned upside down when one day in 1998, he noticed his wife using a dirty rag towel during her period.

He asked his wife why she wasn't using sanitary pads. She replied that they would have to cut their meal budget to be able to afford to buy them.

That's when Muruganantham, a school dropout in southern India, set out to create a machine that could produce cheap sanitary pads.

Labelled an outcast by society

Muruganantham shared his story withRick Cluff on The Early Edition, ahead of his first Vancouver appearance at the Indian Summer Festival.

"Nobody in the society will talk about menstruation...it's a taboo in my country," he said.

Because of this attitude, many shunned him when he began his research, during which he used himself as a test subject, wearing the pads and using pigs blood to mimic menstruation.

"That's why I'm branded by society as a psycho," Muruganantham told Cluff.

"[At] one point in time the village people thought I became a vampire in the evening, drinking girls' blood."

But Muruganantham persevered through both societal condemnation and many unsuccessful prototypes.

"Even though I failed 900 times, [I thought], 'If I change the angle of blade or the material I might succeed.' I thought I could help the entire nation."

Muruganantham did finally succeed, coming up with a simple machine that could produce sanitary pads at a fraction of the usual cost. He now travels around India, installing the machine in rural communities so local women can manufacture affordable pads.

His work was the subject of the documentary Menstrual Man, and he was named as one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2014.

To hear the full interview click on the audio labelled: Menstrual Man

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