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.” – Freweini Mebrahtu said when receiving
the 2019 CNN Hero of the Year Award.
On Christmas day, I was home all day. I love to spend my weekends and public holidays at home, it
is a fantastic way to relax, spend quality time with family and friends, attend to my blog and school. In consequence, my plans for Christmas were very simple; stay indoors, watch movies and CNN all day.
Watching CNN on Christmas day was very refreshing, a lot of wonderful activities lined up, it was very hard to change the channel. Interestingly, one of the shows I watched was ‘CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute’ held at the American Museum of Natural History, hosted by Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa. The show originally aired on December 8th 2019 but I watched the repeat broadcast on the December 25th, 2019.
The CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute is a television special created by CNN to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities. The program was started in 2007. Nominees are introduced during the fall of each year and the audience is encouraged to vote online for the CNN Hero of the Year. Ten recipients are honored and each receive USD$50,000 ($25,000 in 2014). The top recipient is chosen as the CNN Hero of the Year and receives an additional USD$250,000 ($100,000 in 2014) to continue their work.
During the broadcast celebrating their achievements, the honorees are introduced by celebrities who actively support their charity work.
The top 10 CNN Heroes of 2019 each received USD10,000. The 2019 CNN Hero of the Year received an additional USD100,000. Also honored, 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. (Source: Heroes Award)
While I was watching the award ceremony, I was inspired by the fact that most of the honorees were confronted with a seemingly difficult and life-threatening situation but they conquered their limitations, turned that around positively and they are ultimately trying to make sure no one have to go through what they went through in life.
Undoubtedly, I would love to start with the story of Richard Miles, who was a teenager when he was
arrested and accused of murder. At 20, he was sentenced to 60 years behind bars. He was an innocent man. Wrongfully convicted for a crime he did not commit, Miles spent 15 years in a Texas prison. He was 34 when he was released in 2009. Hear Him; “I was overwhelmed. I was 34 years old in age, but I was 19 from society standpoints. I had not dealt with the world, and I was literally scared,” he said. “I didn’t know about taxes and employment. The world was totally different.”
For two years, Miles struggled to get back on his feet. Eventually, he found a job, a home, and today is married with a child. His own struggles and seeing other formerly incarcerated individuals in the same situation were the impetus to help other former prisoners transition and stay out of prison. Richard Miles started his NGO – Miles Of Freedom from his compensation payment for wrongful conviction.
Similarly, just like Richard Miles, the Winner of the CNN Hero of the Year 2019, Freweini Mebrahtu also had to confront an ostensibly insurmountable challenge, she grew up in northern Ethiopia where menstruation was considered a taboo. Like most girls in northern Ethiopia, she suffered in silence, never mentioning it to her mother or sisters. With no access to sanitary products, she coped by using rags.  Mebrahtu went on to study in the United States, and remembers her first trip to an American drugstore. “I saw overwhelming choices of sanitary pads,” she said. “I started thinking … ‘What about the girls that I left behind?'”
So, in 2005, Freweini Mebrahtu designed and patented a reusable menstrual pad. Today, she and her team produce 750,000 pads a year at her Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, named for her daughter. Mebrahtu works in partnership with the nonprofit Dignity Period, which has conducted educational workshops for more than 300,000 students, teaching girls and boys that menstruation is natural, not shameful.
There are loads and loads of inspiring stories from other honorees like Mary Robinson who founded the nonprofit Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss in 2011 to help children deal with all the emotions that come from the death of a loved one. At the center, kids learn how to deal with their grief with other children who have lost a parent, brother or sister. Mary lost her dad to Cancer when she was only 14. You can read more of these stories on
Thank you for reading to this point, I appreciate your patience but before I call it a day, I would love to ask everyone reading this opinion piece just one question, what are you doing (or plan to do) to make the world a better place?
Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.