The Oscar-winning ‘Pad Man’ of India

A man’s pursuit to ensure menstrual hygiene for his wife sparked a revolution in the sanitary napkin industry, bringing affordable pads to 3.5 million women across India and many more across the world.

Puja Changoiwala

March 5, 2019

The Oscar-winning ‘Pad Man’ of India
Arunachalam

When Arunachalam Muruganantham, a school dropout from a village in southern India, noticed his bride using filthy rags during her periods, he was worried. He offered to buy her a sanitary napkin, but she refused. The pad, which cost four rupees ($0.06), would cut deep into her household budget. Undeterred, and hoping to impress his new wife, Muruganantham set out to fashion a homemade sanitary napkin.

The quest left him branded a madman and cost him his marriage and savings. What emerged, after almost a decade of hardship, was the world’s first low-cost pad-making machine. Period. End of Sentence., a short documentary based on his life, just won an Oscar.

“The recognition will help further my cause,” says Muruganantham, awarded one of India’s highest civilian honours, the Padma Shri, and on TIME magazine’s 2014 list of 100 Most Influential People in the World alongside Barack Obama, Jack Ma, and Malala Yousafzai. “There’s still a long way to go. I want India to be a 100% pad-using nation.”