Arunachalam Muruganantham would not have imagined his invention would transcend geographic boundaries: from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu to Ghagwal in Jammu and Kashmir.
Muruganantham was obsessed with making the perfect sanitary pad for his wife. The obsession led him to invent a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine, earning him the title of a social entrepreneur in the process.
His invention is now a motivation for women in Ghagwal, a medium size village in Samba district. The women in the village have started making low-cost sanitary pads with assistance from the Department of Rural Development under its 'Umeed' scheme, which is aimed at empowering women in rural areas.
The State Rural Livelihood Mission has set up a low-cost pad-making unit in the village and women from Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are making sanitary pads there and also marketing their product.
The unit was inaugurated yesterday by Minister for Rural Development Abdul Haq Khan and Minister of State for Education Priya Sethi.
With an aim to ensure menstrual hygiene, the women are trying to keep the cost of the sanitary pads less than a third of the price of commercially available pads. Doing this, is helping them secure their livelihood.
Seven SHGs members from Ghaghwal were trained at Muruganantham's pad-making facility in Coimbatore. The machines, too, were acquired from there.
Interestingly, setting up such units require nominal investments, the ministers were informed by people behind the project in Ghaghwal. The product will be affordable to rural women and it will help them discard their traditional method of using unhygienic cloth.
Minister Khan told the women that SHGs are a useful platform to improve their knowledge on health issues, and also increase their financial security during health emergencies.
He hoped more such units would be set up to make available affordable sanitary pads and ensure better menstrual hygiene among women.
Khan said the Jammu and Kashmir government has flagged women's welfare as a priority. He said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is keen to see the women of the state empowered.
Minister Sethi, too, interacted with the women in the village, praising them for overcoming odds and starting this project.
She said women empowerment is imperative for the development of any society and the government is committed to facilitate women improve their living standard.
Making women economically independent is necessary to empower them, Sethi said, adding the State Rural Livelihood Mission is actively working to achieve this.