Operating on a single machine at a time, Arunachalam Muruganantham explains his every move in broken English to four village women who watch carefully as he delicately handles lumps of cotton-like substance and rolls them to make sanitary napkins.
A young management student translates the instructions into Hindi and the women nod, following the method that they will soon adopt. The final product, after the raw material passes through four other machines, is a thick, rectangular sanitary napkin costing just Re 1. That’s about one-fifth the cost of an average branded sanitary napkin.
The women in the small, carpeted room, where the machines are installed, take turns to examine the outcome of the two-minute labour. The youngest among them, Kumari Sharda Rana, 18, is too shy to even touch it.
Eight women from Sara Saria village near Khatima town of Udham Singh Nagar district, Uttarakhand, will soon manufacture and package these napkins under the brand name of ‘Sahyogpath’ and each will get Rs 1,500 as monthly salary. It will be marketed and supplied door-to-door by many others like them.
This small business, set up at farmer-innovator Ashok Kumar Singh’s home, employs eight women in two groups of four each, who have been working in shifts of four hours a day since 1 April. Muruganantham taught the women how to operate the machines and when he returns to his home in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, he will have given Sara Saria not just hygienic sanitary napkins, but also sustainable employment to these women.