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."
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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.