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Breaking Barriers: Eritrea’s Exceptional Women

Breaking Barriers: Eritrea’s Exceptional Women

By Myth2014,

The longest African independence war of the 1900s, Eritrea’s three decades long struggle was about far more than just political emancipation; rather, it sought to usher in a complete and radical transformation of society. An important part of the latter agenda – giving special attention to egalitarian, popular democratic principles – was a particular focus on women’s and gender-related issues. No longer would women be viewed narrowly as secondary, subordinate figures within society; instead, they would stand proudly as full equals to men. Embodying the notion of equality through struggle, valiant Eritrean women served honorably, fought bravely, and sacrificed greatly alongside men in the labyrinth-like trenches, on the battlefields, and across the frontlines. Ultimately, women would prove absolutely critical to the eventual achievement of independence. In a similar vein, since independence Eritrean women have been key drivers of the nation’s pursuit of broad national development and economic progress.

In honor and recognition of Eritrean women’s monumental contribution to the struggle, the country took several steps after independence to formally guarantee women’s equal standing in all sectors of society. It signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1995 and has worked to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. As well, the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) has coordinated, monitored, and implemented a broad array of gender-equality programs and initiatives. In education, there has been a focus on expanding access and opportunities for females, and gender disparities in enrollment and literacy have improved significantly.

Attention to gender-equality has also extended to the employment and economic sectors. National Labour and Land Reform Proclamations secure legal protection for women in employment, guarantee women equal opportunities and maternal-protection benefits, and ensure that women are able to purchase, use, or inherit land without discrimination. Additionally, several national initiatives, such as the Macro Policy and the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Program, were created to guarantee that women would be appropriately supported in fulfilling their potential.

The diverse efforts promoting equality, coupled with gradual – yet noticeable – societal cultural changes, have seen women integrated into many sectors of the economy, allowing them to play a vital role in the country’s development and progress. Women now constitute between 35%-45% of the workforce, and they remain very active in the informal sector. While women have traditionally been concentrated in manufacturing – such as the garment, leather, and tobacco industries – improvements in education and expanded opportunities have meant that more women are transitioning to high-skilled sectors.

Notably, today many women proudly own land, often using it for farming or to build houses. Their ownership also extends to business, where they retain control over 40% of all small and medium-sized enterprises. Impressively, the largest manufacturing factory in Eritrea is owned by a woman. Finally, Eritrea’s nascent mining sector has received strong impetus from women;they perform a variety of construction, driving, administrative, technical and managerial functions.

Around the world, it has long been the rule that women are inferior, with little to contribute to society. In Eritrea, an old, backwards proverb states that “like there is no donkey with horns, there is no woman with brains.” However, from the days of the long struggle and since independence, Eritrean women have proven resilient exceptions to such outdated, patriarchal rules through their wholehearted participation, struggle, contributions, and sacrifice. Today, Eritrean women are contributing in all areas of society and in many diverse, important ways, ultimately playing a crucial role in the country’s general development and socio-economic improvement.

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Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front Fighter name Lemlem

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Breaking Barriers: Eritrea’s Exceptional Women Reviewed by Admin on 11:44 AM Rating: 5


  1. Iterseting article, however I feel women are still being patronised here in this article!!
    Yes we have different proclamation passed by the government but how about it simplimentation? Owing to our Eritrean history I expected a bit more respect and equality should be endowed to women.
    Generally look around you and Eritrean women are still being subjected to a lot of harasment from sexual to physical and I point my fingers to men like me, the way women treated in Erittea is abhorent!!!!

  2. Agree with the article, and real to be prised what the society and women in particular are paying in Eritrea. To be recognized also the effort of GOE did in past and at present times.


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