A hero gives freedom to women in Ethiopia
When a girl in Northern Ethiopia got her period at age 13, she couldn’t mention it to even her mother or sisters and used rags to cope. She mistakenly thought that it was a curse. In 2019, about 40 years later, the girl she has been named the 2019 Hero of the Year by CNN, a US news channel. Her efforts in Ethiopia to eliminate false prejudices and to change attitudes about women’s menstruation were highly valued.
Freweini Mebrahtu who was born in Ethiopia and educated in the United States is a chemical engineer and entrepreneur. Amazingly, Freweini has developed a menstrual pad that can repeatedly be used for two years and established a factory. A strong point of the pad is that users can purchase at a 90% cheaper price than a year’s worth of disposable pads. While being affordable, it is durable and washable and has a function of leak prevention.
According to an article on CNN’s Web site, since disposable sanitary products are very expensive in Ethiopia, they are not available to 75% of women. Menstruation is not taught at school since it is considered taboo, and girls do not talk about it to others. These situations make one in 10 girls on average in Ethiopia miss school when getting their periods. In rural areas, the ratio is one in two, and girls fall behind in class due to missing school and eventually drop out.
To change these situations, Freweini built a factory in 2009 and started manufacturing in full swing with local women. In addition, she conducted classes in menstruation at schools. After establishing an NPO in 2014 in cooperation with a university professor in the United States, she rapidly expanded her activities. The NPO has partnered with a local university and has conducted educational workshops for more than 300,000 students so far. Today, these students teach young children that menstruation is natural, not shameful. These classes are given to both girls and boys, and they are trying to change society-wide attitudes. According to data by NPO, in schools where classes were given, the attendance rate for girls increased by 24%.
In an interview with CNN, Freweini said: “Giving pads to these girls means giving them freedom. They can achieve whatever they want to achieve (by receiving education).” If you want to support her wonderful efforts, visit the official web page.