Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Bloody amazing

I absolutely love this story about an Indian man who has battled through taboo and ignorance to create a machine to help poor women and girls make their own sanitary towels, which protects their health and enables girls to keep going to school: the drop-out rate at menarche is 23%. It's a shock to me how much I take for granted these necessities and my access to sanitation. These issues never fricking occurred to me #shame-faced#.

"There are still many taboos around menstruation in India. Women can't visit temples or public places, they're not allowed to cook or touch the water supply - essentially they are considered untouchable. 

It took Muruganantham 18 months to build 250 machines, which he took out to the poorest and most underdeveloped states in Northern India - the so-called BIMARU or "sick" states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. 

Here, women often have to walk for miles to fetch water, something they can't do when they are menstruating - so families suffer. 

"My inner conscience said if I can crack it in Bihar, a very tough nut to crack, I can make it anywhere," says Muruganantham. 

It was hard even to broach the subject in such a conservative society. "To speak to rural women, we need permission from the husband or father," he says. "We can only talk to them through a blanket." 

There are also myths and fears surrounding the use of sanitary pads - that women who use them will go blind, for example, or will never get married. But slowly, village by village, there was cautious acceptance and over time the machines spread to 1,300 villages in 23 states." 

And better yet, this man is not making his fortune out of his invention.

"He believes that big business is parasitic, like a mosquito, whereas he prefers the lighter touch, like that of a butterfly. "A butterfly can suck honey from the flower without damaging it," he says." 

Isn't that beautiful?

Muruganantham now lives with his family in a modest apartment. He owns a jeep, "a rugged car that will take me to hillsides, jungles, forest", but has no desire to accumulate possessions. "I have accumulated no money but I accumulate a lot of happiness," he says. "If you get rich, you have an apartment with an extra bedroom - and then you die."

Oh man.

1 comment:

Mrs. Teacher said...

Wow, what a cool thing! And how sad that it needs to be done.