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Eritrea: A Note on International Women’s Day

Eritrean women are brave, resilient, intelligent, and are the vanguard of the nation. 

A Note on International Women’s Day 

By Samuela

As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD), the progress made so far, and the wide gap that still remains to achieve gender equality and equity, I would like us to take this opportunity to highlight Eritrean women’s achievements and recognize their long struggle for gender parity. 

Celebrating International Women’s Day is a call for human race to come together and stand shoulder to shoulder to bring women's struggle  since   antiquity, in its modern form from the women suffrage movement of the early 19th century to the present day to victory. We all need to realize that discrimination of women is discrimination of someone’s mother, sister, wife, or daughter, and for this reason alone, everyone but particularly men should be sensitive and join the struggle to resolve it. Let us open equal opportunities to benefit all.  It is when we work together for the common good that we can end the inequality and close the gap. 

Here a lesson from the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) struggle can be helpful. Eritrean women remain a role model to many oppressed women around the World. Thanks to their continuous struggle they are on course to achieving full equality and equity with their follow Eritreans and are contributing greatly to the movement on gender equality/equity around the world. The NUEW officially joined the international community since the independence of Eritrean 1991 but its struggle goes decades before that. Since the beginning  it has been actively pursuing equal justice for all women and society at large. Eritrean women are battle-tested, experienced, and determined than ever in tackling this and closing the gender equality gap. They understand well that women’s right is a human right, but they also see that women’s right cannot be taken in isolation but as part of a societal right as a whole and that's why they fought hard to liberate their people from foreign occupation. 

Born in 1979 as a mass organization of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), the NUEW is now an independent non-governmental organization playing a crucial role in the political, social and economic empowerment of women in post-independence Eritrea. So far the NUEW has scored many major victories and it remains at the forefront of the continuing struggle for achieving even better gender parity and equity in Eritrea. 

During the 30 years war for independence about a third of the Eritrean People's Liberation Army members were women. In that bitter struggle Eritrean women were front and center of the struggle. Through their equal participation they  proved that they were capable of doing anything their male comrades were capable of doing. In short there was no sphere of the struggle where women didn't play pivotal roles. Many Eritrean women were also the backbone of the EPLF mass organizations inside and outside Eritrea. Thanks to the sacrifices of these brave daughters of Eritrea, Eritrean society has been transformed. 

Today thirty percent (30%) of national, regional and local assembly seats are reserved for women.  Women also have the opportunity to compete for the remaining 70% of the seats. As a result of this progressive policy the NUEW continues to register a noticeable change. In addition, the NUEW has also registered a significant progress towards achieving the Beijing and UN millennium ahead of many of African countries. 

The NUEW also continues to consolidate and expand its chapters in the Diaspora, and is encouraging members to close the gap between the women in the homeland and the diaspora, to integrate skills, to render their knowhow and expertise to their fellow Eritreans. Four members of the NUEW central council are from the USA and charged along with their colleagues in the NUEW branch in the USA to mobilize diaspora women to continue playing an important role in the political, social, economic, and cultural landscapes of the Eritrean diaspora. 

Here is a partial list of Eritrean's progress and  important milestones in: 

  1. Abolishing illiteracy. Female enrollment and completion ratios in the adult literacy program has been over 90% 
  2. Reducing maternal morbidity per 100,000 fell between 1990 and 2013 from 1700 to 380. 
  3. Reducing child mortality morbidity 
  4. Controlling HIV/Aids.  In eight years between 2003-2011, HIV prevalence fell from 2.41% to 0.79% in the 15-49 age group and from 2.1% to 0.28% in the 15-24 age group. compared to sub-Saharan Countries 
  5. Combating harmful behavior such smoking, alcohol consumption, encouraging healthy living, disease prevention 
  6. Nation building 
  7. Economic empowerment 
  8. Political arena-justice, ministerial, ambassador. Etc. 

Here in the USA we are entering a new era as well; a woman is running to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for the president of the United States. In this regard the US is lagging behind many other small and large, rich and poor countries of different religious and political persuasion around the world. People have been electing women to the highest office in the modern world for more than 6 decades now. Should the US elect a woman president, it would be one step closer towards fairness and equality. 

International Women’s Day is not about celebrating feminism that is created in a vacuum, it is a struggle of many ordinary women that is made extraordinary by the scarifies women paid to be liberate from societal and cultural oppression. We must come together to protect and keep the struggle sound and strong. 

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Pledge for Parity”, it is what Eritrean women has been doing for the past four decades and thus it is a good opportunity for Eritreans of both genders and different backgrounds to renew their pledge to work for gender parity and a speedy action to achieve it. 

Suggestions and Recommendations: 

  1. The NUEW in the USA needs to extend its organizational mobilization so as to be attractive to young Eritrean women, including professional women and those who were born and raised outside Eritrea. 
  2. It should create an environment of cooperation and integration of skills and know how to impact changes and experience of one another by organizing workshops and facilitating internships etc. 
  3. It should encourage young women in the Diaspora to help create a link with progressive international women’s organizations. 
  4. It should continue to be a strong bridge between the NUEW in Eritrea and the World arena Network to highlight the monumental achievements of Eritrean women and their unrelenting struggle to liberate themselves and their country. 
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Eritrea: A Note on International Women’s Day Reviewed by Admin on 8:17 AM Rating: 5

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