CNN named Dignity Period's Freweini Mebrahtu its 2019 Hero of the Year for her work to change the cultural stigma around women’s periods. Freweini’s belief that no girl should miss school because of a period is resonating on a global scale in a big way.
CNN Heroes is a year-long initiative that honors everyday people for their selfless, creative efforts to help others. Since 2007, CNN Heroes has received more than 85,000 nominations from more than 100 countries. The campaign has profiled more than 300 CNN Heroes. They’re working in more than 80 countries around the world, helping millions of people.
Dignity Period's founders first met Freweini in 2014, when they learned that a lack of menstruation education and supplies was driving girls to drop out of school. They wanted to help solve the problem by providing financial and logistical support so Freweini's Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory could produce and distribute high volumes of quality menstruation pads to girls throughout Ethiopia. She's been our hero ever since.
When I met Dr. Wall, it was a game changer. I'm so glad to be working on this issue with people who care as much as I do.
CNN Hero & Dignity Period Partner
Today, working in partnership with Mekelle University, Dignity Period and Freweini have been able to reach more than 300,000 students. Dignity Period works with donors to fund the program that Mekelle University administers on the ground in Ethiopia. Dignity Period and Mekelle purchase all the pads for the program from Freweini and Mariam Seba using donated funds.
The cultural stigma surrounding menstruation in Ethiopia has dire consequences. On average, 1 in 10 girls in Ethiopia miss school for reasons related to their periods; in some rural areas, this increases almost 50%. Missing school can lead girls to fall behind in class and eventually drop out.
Thanks to Freweini and Dignity Period, that trend is now moving in the opposite direction. Research shows girls' attendance increased 24% at schools Dignity Period visited.
All I want is for all girls to have dignity. Period.