Ethiopian chemical engineer Freweini Mebrahtu, who makes reusable pads, has been named Hero of the Year by the news channel CNN.
Ms Mebrahtu won the award for her reusable pads project, which is said to have helped keep Ethiopian girls in rural areas in school.
Ms Mebrahtu won an online vote and will receive $100,000 (£76,000) to expand her work.
In a previous interview with BBC Tigrinya, Ms Mebrahtu said when she started her project people laughed at her.
However, she carried on because she felt that Ethiopian women and girls deserved dignity during their period.
"The moment girls and women in rural Tigray told me they sit in a hole during their period, I was shocked," she said.
Ms Mebrahtu designed and patented a reusable menstrual pad in 2005.
She and her team produce 700,000 reusable pads every year at her factory in Ethiopia.
More than 80% of the pads she manufactures are sold to non-governmental organizations that distribute them for free.