CNN’s Ethiopian hero of the year – not who you are thinking of!

Source: CNN

Freweini Mebrahtu

(CNN)It’s something that girls and young women in western countries can’t imagine: missing school, even dropping out, because of their periods. Yet as many as half the girls in rural parts of Ethiopia miss school for reasons related to their periods — and that can have a devastating effect on their education and the rest of their lives.

Freweini Mebrahtu has dedicated her life to keeping girls in school by designing a reusable menstrual pad and trying to end the cultural stigma around the issue — and because of her work, she has been named the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Mebrahtu said when receiving the award. “I am so humbled and grateful for CNN … this is for all the girls and women everywhere. Dignity for all.”Online voters selected Mebrahtu as the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year award from among the Top 10 CNN Heroes finalists.

Mebrahtu — 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.

She’s changing the cultural stigma around women’s periodsShe knows personally what it’s like to deal with the issue. “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,” Mebrahtu told CNN.

Mebrahtu 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 Mebrahtu’s factory.

Data gathered by the group shows that schools visited by Dignity Period had a 24% increase in attendance among girls.As the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year, Mebrahtu 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.

Woody Faircloth accepts his award onstage. Faircloth was honored by actress Kathy Bates and actor Paul Walter Hauser from the upcoming film "Richard Jewell."
From left, the 2019 Top 10 CNN Heroes Woody Faircloth, Afroz Shah, Richard Miles, Freweini Mebrahtu, Mary Robinson, Zach Wigal, Najah Bazzy, Mark Meyers, Staci Alonso, and Roger Montoya arrive on the red carpet at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
Hosts Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper laugh with the 2019 Top 10 CNN Heroes  on the red carpet prior to CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.
Brooklyn Prince blows a kiss on the red carpet.
CNN anchors John Berman and Alisyn Camerota pose for photographers.
Actress Alfre Woodard arrives for CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History. Woodard is a presenter at the event.
From left, the 2019 Young Wonders, Bradley Ferguson, Jemima Browning, Jahkil Jackson and Grace Callwood walk the red carpet.
Actor Anupam Kher snaps a photo on his cell phone as he walks the red carpet.
'Stranger Things' actor Caleb Mclaughlin arrives on the red carpet.
Katherine McNamara attends CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History.
Actress Kathy Bates attends CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
Student athlete Nathan Bain and a guest pose on the red carpet at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
Actress Julia Stiles arrives on the red carpet.
From left, the Top 10 2019 CNN Heroes Woody Faircloth, Mark Meyers, Richard Miles, Roger Montoya, Afroz Shah, Freweini Mebrahtu, Najah Bazzy, Zach Wigal, Mary Robinson, and Staci Alonso pose onstage at American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Mark Meyers gave up his career to start the largest sanctuary for neglected and abused donkeys. Today, his nonprofit Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue has rescued 13,000 animals to date.
Actress Alfre Woodard introduces 2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Richard Miles. Miles spent 15 years in a Texas prison after being falsly accused. His Dallas nonprofit, Miles of Freedom, aims to help people transition and stay out of prison. Miles of Freedom assists individuals returning home from prison by helping them obtain identification, enroll in college and secure housing, as well as computer and career training, financial literacy programs and job placement.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Freweini Mebrahtu holds up her award onstage. Mebrahtu 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.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Mary Robinson accepts her award onstage. Robinson founded the nonprofit Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss to create what she didn't have after her father died when she was 14 -- a place to grieve. At her center in Mountainside, New Jersey, children learn how to deal with their grief with other children who have lost a parent, brother or sister.
Host Kelly Ripa presents 2019 Young Wonder Jahkil Jackson with his award onstage. When Jackson was just 8 years old, he started Project I Am. He and his nonprofit create and distribute bags filled with hygiene products and other necessary items to help people in their daily lives.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Staci Alonso accepts her award onstage. Alonso opened Noah's Animal House, a full-service pet shelter located right on the grounds of a domestic violence shelter in Las Vegas in 2007.
Anderson Cooper's dog Lilly and Kelly Ripa's dog Chewy appear onstage during CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.
Hero Roger Montoya speaks onstage after accepting his award. Montoya brings the healing power of the arts to local children in northern New Mexico, a center of the opioid epidemic with one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. His nonprofit, Moving Arts Española has provided arts classes, free meals, tutoring and support to more than 5,000 children and youth since 2008.
Top 10 CNN Hero Najah Bazzy embraces host Kelly Ripa backstage after accepting her award. Bazzy runs Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. Today, Zaman runs a 40,000-square-foot facility in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, and the group has helped provide more than 250,000 people with food, clothes and furniture free of charge.
Hero Zach Wigal speaks onstage at the 2019 CNN Heroes Awards. Wigal is the founder of Gamers Outreach, a nonprofit that makes sure that kids who can't leave their hospital rooms during long-term medical treatment can play video games while they recuperate.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Afroz Shah smiles as he accepts his award. Shah began picking up trash from Mumbai's Versova Beach every Sunday morning with a neighbor in October 2015. By October 2018, Versova Beach was finally clean and Shah's cleanups expanded to another beach and other regions of India.
Woody Faircloth accepts his award onstage. Faircloth was honored by actress Kathy Bates and actor Paul Walter Hauser from the upcoming film "Richard Jewell."
From left, the 2019 Top 10 CNN Heroes Woody Faircloth, Afroz Shah, Richard Miles, Freweini Mebrahtu, Mary Robinson, Zach Wigal, Najah Bazzy, Mark Meyers, Staci Alonso, and Roger Montoya arrive on the red carpet at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
Hosts Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper laugh with the 2019 Top 10 CNN Heroes  on the red carpet prior to CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.
Brooklyn Prince blows a kiss on the red carpet.
CNN anchors John Berman and Alisyn Camerota pose for photographers.
Actress Alfre Woodard arrives for CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History. Woodard is a presenter at the event.
From left, the 2019 Young Wonders, Bradley Ferguson, Jemima Browning, Jahkil Jackson and Grace Callwood walk the red carpet.
Actor Anupam Kher snaps a photo on his cell phone as he walks the red carpet.
'Stranger Things' actor Caleb Mclaughlin arrives on the red carpet.
Katherine McNamara attends CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History.
Actress Kathy Bates attends CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
Student athlete Nathan Bain and a guest pose on the red carpet at the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
Actress Julia Stiles arrives on the red carpet.
From left, the Top 10 2019 CNN Heroes Woody Faircloth, Mark Meyers, Richard Miles, Roger Montoya, Afroz Shah, Freweini Mebrahtu, Najah Bazzy, Zach Wigal, Mary Robinson, and Staci Alonso pose onstage at American Museum of Natural History on Sunday, December 8.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Mark Meyers gave up his career to start the largest sanctuary for neglected and abused donkeys. Today, his nonprofit Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue has rescued 13,000 animals to date.
Actress Alfre Woodard introduces 2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Richard Miles. Miles spent 15 years in a Texas prison after being falsly accused. His Dallas nonprofit, Miles of Freedom, aims to help people transition and stay out of prison. Miles of Freedom assists individuals returning home from prison by helping them obtain identification, enroll in college and secure housing, as well as computer and career training, financial literacy programs and job placement.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Freweini Mebrahtu holds up her award onstage. Mebrahtu 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.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Mary Robinson accepts her award onstage. Robinson founded the nonprofit Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss to create what she didn't have after her father died when she was 14 -- a place to grieve. At her center in Mountainside, New Jersey, children learn how to deal with their grief with other children who have lost a parent, brother or sister.
Host Kelly Ripa presents 2019 Young Wonder Jahkil Jackson with his award onstage. When Jackson was just 8 years old, he started Project I Am. He and his nonprofit create and distribute bags filled with hygiene products and other necessary items to help people in their daily lives.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Staci Alonso accepts her award onstage. Alonso opened Noah's Animal House, a full-service pet shelter located right on the grounds of a domestic violence shelter in Las Vegas in 2007.
Anderson Cooper's dog Lilly and Kelly Ripa's dog Chewy appear onstage during CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute.
Hero Roger Montoya speaks onstage after accepting his award. Montoya brings the healing power of the arts to local children in northern New Mexico, a center of the opioid epidemic with one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. His nonprofit, Moving Arts Española has provided arts classes, free meals, tutoring and support to more than 5,000 children and youth since 2008.
Top 10 CNN Hero Najah Bazzy embraces host Kelly Ripa backstage after accepting her award. Bazzy runs Zaman International, a nonprofit that now supports impoverished women and children of all backgrounds in the Detroit area. Today, Zaman runs a 40,000-square-foot facility in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, and the group has helped provide more than 250,000 people with food, clothes and furniture free of charge.
Hero Zach Wigal speaks onstage at the 2019 CNN Heroes Awards. Wigal is the founder of Gamers Outreach, a nonprofit that makes sure that kids who can't leave their hospital rooms during long-term medical treatment can play video games while they recuperate.
2019 Top 10 CNN Hero Afroz Shah smiles as he accepts his award. Shah began picking up trash from Mumbai's Versova Beach every Sunday morning with a neighbor in October 2015. By October 2018, Versova Beach was finally clean and Shah's cleanups expanded to another beach and other regions of India.

Mebrahtu was presented with the Hero of the Year award Sunday night by hosts Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa.Also honored Sunday were the 2019 CNN Heroes Young Wonders, four teens who are making the world a better place with their volunteer efforts which include creating an inclusive swim team for kids with disabilities, crafting special bags for the homeless, cheering up kids in foster care and helping veterans in need.If you know someone who is making the world a better place, you can nominate them as a 2020 CNN Hero at CNNHeroes.com. If you would like to support Mebrahtu’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.

One comment

  1. I voted for her
    I am delighted and congratulate her warmly
    Dont put politics and hate point of view
    The 2 are legitimate as once dr Tedros Adhanom used to be
    Congrats Freweîni

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