NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 08: 2019 CNN Hero of the Year Freweini Mebrahtu attends CNN Heroes at American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

Ethiopian Innovator named ‘Hero of the Year’

ADDIS ABEBA – Freweini Mebrahtu has been given CNN’s “Hero of the Year” award for working to change the cultural stigma attached to women’s periods in Ethiopia.

Freweini was also awarded USD 100 000 to help in expanding her work.

Upon receiving her award, she said “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.”

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.

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 told CNN.
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 Dignity Period had a 24% increase in attendance among girls.

On Monday, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed has congratulated Freweini for being named 2019 CNN Hero of the Year.

“Her innovation and dedication to keeping girls in school is commendable, as is her service and commitment to elevating her community,” the Prime Minister said.