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 percent of the pads she manufactures are sold to non-governmental organizations that distribute them for free.