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Illustration by Michael Hoeweler for TIME

In a small south Indian town, a man’s empathy for his wife has sparked a revolution. In 1998, Arunachalam Muruganantham asked his wife why she hoarded dirty rags and was told she needed them during menstruation. Buying sanitary napkins would cost too much. His response: designing a simple machine to produce sanitary pads. He even wore some himself, using a tiny pump to test absorption. And instead of selling his idea to the highest bidder, he supplies his low-cost machines to rural communities. Now millions of poor Indian women can avoid painful urinary-tract infections and create their own pad-manufacturing businesses. The invention has also sparked interest around the world.

It’s a truism for a reason: Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion.

Gupta is the founder of Apne Aap, an Indian anti-sex-trafficking organization

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