By Staff Reporter
December 9, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- CNN has named Ethiopian Innovator Freweini Mebrahtu the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year in recognition of her work on menstruation and keeping girls in school as well as fighting to end the cultural stigma attached with menstruation.
Freweini Mebrahtu designed and patented a reusable menstrual pad for girls in her native Ethiopia who do not have access to sanitary pads.
Upon receiving her award, Mebrahtu said that "I don't even know what to say. I am so humbled and grateful for CNN ... this is for all the girls and women everywhere. Dignity for all."
In 2005, the Ethiopian innovator designed a reusable sanitary pad which she mass-produced at her factory in Ethiopia and went on to help 800 000 women and girls as a result. Speaking from her own experience, Mebrahtu has since described what drove her to design the reusable sanitary pad saying, "I remembered (hearing) that it's actually a curse to have a period...or that it meant I am ready to be married, or (that) I'm being bad."
Online voters selected Freweini as the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year award from among the Top 10 CNN finalists.
Freweini – who is from Ethiopia and studied chemical engineering in the US — designed and patented a reusable menstrual pad in 2005.
She and her team produce 750,000 reusable pads a year at her factory in Ethiopia. Nearly 800,000 girls and women have benefited from her work.
More than 80% of the pads she manufactures are sold to non-governmental organizations that distribute them for free.
“I remembered (hearing) that it’s actually a curse to have a period or that it meant I am ready to be married, or (that) I’m being bad,” Freweini told CNN.
Freweini has teamed up with the nonprofit, Dignity Period, to end the stigma around the issue by speaking at schools and teaching girls and boys that menstruation is natural, not shameful.
“The whole goal was not only making the pads but also attacking the cultural baggage to it,” she said.
Dignity Period has distributed more than 150,000 free menstrual hygiene kits purchased from Freweini’s factory.
Data gathered by the group shows that schools visited by the Dignity Period had a 24% increase in attendance among girls.
As the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year, Freweini will receive $100,000 to expand her work. All of the top 10 CNN Heroes for 2019 were honored at Sunday’s gala and will receive a $10,000 cash award.
Freweini was presented with the Hero of the Year award Sunday night by hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa.
If you would like to support Freweini’s work or any of the nonprofit organizations of the Top 10 CNN Heroes, you can also make a donation via CNNHeroes.com.
All donations made by January 2, 2020, will be matched by Subaru up to $50,000 per Hero.
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