NUEW: Striving for Women’s Economic Empowerment
By Rigat Tesfamichael
Women’s economic empowerment has a decisive role in a country’s nation building process. Whether in the private or public sectors, on farms or as unpaid home caretakers, women make enormous contributions to economies in every society. Even though this is a well-recognized fact, however, women remain disproportionately affected by poverty and gender-based discrimination and exploitation.
For this reason, the Government of Eritrea, through different programs and partnerships, has strongly emphasized on the socioeconomic empowerment of women at every level of its development strategy with an aim of creating grounds for women to have equal access to resources and decision making processes.
The Government of Eritrea recognizes that investing in women’s economic empowerment is a direct path to gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. As such, the Government of Eritrea places women at the center of all poverty reduction efforts and recognizes that women’s empowerment and participation is crucial to a healthy society and attaining overall national development goals.
In realizing this, the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), as the guardian Eritrean women’s affairs, has been dedicated to designing and implementing different programs that enhance women’s participation in economic activities in an effort to make them agents of change for sustainable development.
Obviously, such interventions are challenging in patriarchal societies such as Eritrea, where women’s activities outside of the household are still restricted to traditional values and norms.
However, the careful and deliberate promotion of gender awareness since the years of the struggle for liberation have greatly contributed to the gradual, positive shift of attitude towards women’s role in society even in the farthest rural areas of the country.
During an interview, Ms. Senait Mehari, the Head of the SocioEconomic Services Department of NUEW, enumerate different programs of tackling economic dependency that have been in progress over the past few years. One most notable project is the micro-credit scheme deliberately designed for women.
These programs target women that have latent potential yet lack the resources to create a business that would provide a source of income, and provide them with professional training and start-up capital. Another notable NUEW program in the rural areas where the economy is mainly dependent on agriculture is cooperative farming.
To motivate women with handicraft and artisanal skills, NUEW organizes different professional training programs such as designing clothes, sewing and embroidery, wickerwork, ornamentation, potters and other various trainings. The Union encourages these individuals in forming organized group among themselves that can function as platform of cooperation and sharing experiences.Through these groups the Union creates market for their products inside and outside the country.
Last month I participated in a very insightful study tour of this sector, coordinated by the SocioEconomic Services Department. The study tour was organized for the members of executive body which includes the head of the seven zones and central office head departments.
According to Ms. Senait the objective of this tour focusing on the Afabet sub-zone was to create an opportunity where the leadership of the Organization can have a closer channel to the grassroots activities and share experience from each zone for more integrated and effective empowerment interventions.
Afabet sub-zone was selected for this tour for its exemplary activities which encompasses well-coordinated programs on encouraging women’s economic activities and creating favorable ground for continuing education to those women who were unable to have an access of education at the right age.
This sub- zone was the area, where massive programs of awareness campaigns were conducted during the struggle. The legacy of that endeavor for equality is still evident on the courage and willpower of the women to educate and empower themselves.
As a part of our tour we were able to visit to Kamchewaa village within this sub zone. With the cooperation of the administration of the village, two hectare farming land was given to a group of twenty women to conduct cooperative farming.
These women who were economically disadvantaged or single mothers of their families are working for better standard of living of their families and brighter future of their children. It was a very inspiring event to see these women giving their all to the maximized productivity of their work. On the previous years these women able to produce vegetables and commercial crops where they were able to supply the market within the village, they were also able to send their products such as red chilies to Keren and Asmara.
On our tour around the farm we met Ms. Fatima, an elderly mother working with her granddaughter. On the discussion of the tour participants with these women, Ms. Fatima emphasized on how the women of that area were not even able to go out of their Agnet (traditional Tigre tent), but now she referred their capability to generate income and lead their lives as a fruit challenging work that has been done.
She advised the younger women generation not to lose what has been achieved on the role of women with in the society, as they can only secure their equal participation through their multiplied effort.
The tour participants were also able to observe an exhibition on the artistry and embroidery work of women.
These women are engaged in making ornament embroidery within an organized group of the Union.
NUEW support these women in giving them farther trainings on this profession and assists in creating markets for their products.
Another parcel of this tour was attending an orientation on the adult education program, conducted in coordination with the Ministry of Education.
Majority beneficiaries of this program are women who were not able to continue education because of early dropout due to marriage.
The program has two phases: the first part is the illiteracy eradication program which is conducted until grade four, and the second phase is the adult education program from middle to secondary level.
In this year, there were 246 female students in middle school and 84 students in secondary school. Several students of this program who finished their secondary school are working in different government apparatus of the subzone.
A very incredible woman among these students was a young mother who faced delivery labor during the matriculation. She was very persistent in finishing her exam – against all odds. These women and many others who are determined to continue their education, confronting the challenges that come from their husbands and their families, are a wittiness for their strength to empower themselves.
Even though the major target is to enhance maximum participation of female students up to the higher level at the right age. The issue of these women who were not able to have this access at the right time can never be ignored.
To be able to see the strong passion of these women to learn and upgrade themselves highlights this truth.
Addressing women’s equality is adhering to the full picture of securing every citizen’s right for social security. It is an assignment of every related body on this area to make a better tomorrow where the coming generation of both sexes can dream, with the sky as the limit for their ambitions.
NUEW: Striving for Women’s Economic Empowerment Reviewed by Admin on 12:07 AM Rating: