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Washington University Professors Partner with Ethiopian Factory to Create ‘Dignity Period’


Dignity Period was founded by Dr. Lewis Wall of Washington University and his wife, Helen, who learned of Freweini Mebrahtu’s factory when they were in Africa.

Reaching womanhood in the United States can be an awkward time for a girl, but imagine what it’s like for girls growing up in Ethiopia.

Freweini Mebrahtu, a vital part of “Dignity Period,” started her own organization in Ethiopia to provide feminine supplies to girls.

“Since we have been in production, we have reached half a million girls and women across Ethiopia,” Mebrahtu says. “To me, it’s really a basic necessity,”

Helina Woldekiros, who grew up in Ethiopia, says with zero access to sanitary pads, girls have to skip school and many never return.

“If they never go back to school, it means they will never be able to be economically independent, and they usually end up being dependent on someone, and it’s usually their brothers or husbands or fathers, so it has a very long term effect on their life,” she says.

Helina Woldekiros, who got her PhD in Anthropology from Washington University, says their organization also aims to break the taboo surrounding the subject.

Dignity Period helps fund Freweini’s factory, where girls and women manufacture reusable pads that last 18 months.

“In America when you go to the supermarket you have thousands of choices, and you don’t even think about not having access to sanitation pads,” Freweini says.

Their annual spring gala is being held April 1 at the Sheldon. Their goal is to raise awareness, but also money to produce more product and expand Freweini’s factory.