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CNN Names Ethiopian Innovator Freweini Mebrahtu This Year's 'Hero of the Year'

Freweini Mebrahtu designed a reusable sanitary pad to help keep girls in school and has fought to end the cultural stigma around menstruation.

Last night, Ethiopia's Freweini Mebrahtu was been named CNN's "Hero of the Year". The award was in recognition of her work on menstruation and keeping girls in school as well as fighting to end the cultural stigma still attached to menstruation. Mebrahtu was also awarded USD 100 000 to help in expanding her work.


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."

Ethiopian women freweini mebrahtu won CNN hero of 2019 www.youtube.com

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."

It is commonplace for girls in especially low to middle income countries to miss school or even drop out entirely because of their periods. Sanitary wear is largely inaccessible to these girls and usually because of financial constraints. According to UNESCO, of the 131 million girls who are currently out of school, 100 million of them are of high school age and one of the major reasons for this is periods.

Just last year, the South African government announced that it would scrap the tax on sanitary pads while in 2017, Botswana's government launched the nation-wide provision of free sanitary pads for schoolgirls in both public and private schools.

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A Year After #EndSARS, Nigerian Youth Maintain That Nothing Has Changed

Despite the disbandment of the SARS units, young Nigerians are still being treated as criminals. We talk to several of them about their experiences since the #EndSARS protests.

On September 12th, Tobe, a 22-year-old student at the University of Nigeria's Enugu Campus was on his way to Shoprite to hang out with his friends when the tricycle he had boarded was stopped by policemen. At first, Tobe thought they were about to check the driver's documents, but he was wrong. "An officer told me to come down, he started searching me like I was a criminal and told me to pull down my trousers, I was so scared that my mind was racing in different ways, I wasn't wearing anything flashy nor did I have an iPhone or dreads — things they would use to describe me as a yahoo boy," he says.

They couldn't find anything on him and when he tried to defend himself, claiming he had rights, one of the police officers slapped him. "I fell to the ground sobbing but they dragged me by the waist and took me to their van where they collected everything including my phone and the 8,000 Naira I was with."

Luckily for Tobe, they let him go free after 2 hours. "They set me free because they caught another pack of boys who were in a Venza car, but they didn't give me my money completely, they gave me 2,000 Naira for my transport," he says.

It's no news that thousands of Nigerian youth have witnessed incidents like Tobe's — many more worse than his. It's this helpless and seemingly unsolvable situation which prompted the #EndSARS protests. Sparked after a viral video of a man who was shot just because he was driving an SUV and was mistaken as a yahoo boy, the #EndSARS protests saw millions of young Nigerians across several states of the country come out of their homes and march against a system has killed unfathomable numbers of people for invalid or plain stupid reasons. The protests started on October 6th, 2020 and came to a seize after a tragedy struck on October 20th of the same year.

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