UN Report on Gender Equality in Eritrea
Eritrea, a small, emergent nation located in eastern Africa, officially became a state in 1993 after an arduous thirty-year-long armed struggle against Ethiopian colonialism. The socio-economic composition of Eritrean society includes more than 60 per cent agro-pastoralists, with the remaining 40 per cent comprised of workers, merchants, students and professionals. There are nine ethnic groups in Eritrea, each with its own language. Although the role of women in society was valued less under traditional patriarchal attitudes, this is currently changing.
Eritrean women played a significant role in the country’s independence struggle, making up 30 per cent of the liberation army. Emboldened by women’s contribution to Eritrean independence, the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) has demonstrated its value for social justice and gender equality, which has in turn created an atmosphere conducive to gender equality, including through specific reference to gender equality in policies and programs.
After a few years of respite from the destructive thirty-year conflict, war again flared up when Ethiopia formally declared war on Eritrea in 1998. A peace agreement was signed between the two countries in December 2000. The recent conflict has displaced more than one million people, mainly farmers, whose livelihoods have been undermined. Land mines also rendered a significant proportion of fertile farmland unusable. Major socio-economic infrastructure was destroyed. From 2000 to 2003 droughts exacerbated existing food insecurity by further reducing agricultural output. The high incidence of both de facto and de jure female-headed households due to the war has intensified this situation. Despite the ‘no war, no peace’ situation created by Ethiopia’s non-compliance with the international verdict, and the silence of the international community, which has been a major stumbling block, the resilient and committed Eritrean people have continued to work towards peace and development and enable major achievements towards gender equality.
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