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Eritrea: Sawa Celebrating its Youth

Sawa Youth Festival 

The year 2016 is surely an important milestone to Eritrea as it celebrates its 25th Silver Jubilee Anniversary of Independence. Yet, the celebration of this young nation’s independence won’t be complete without celebrating its youth. Its youth who brought the independence by forfeiting its life to fight for the Eritrean cause for thirty years while the generation of Warsai-Yekalo continues to stand, protect and be an active agent in the development process of the country.

Accordingly, Eritrea put in place a national development policy including free education for all without any discrimination of gender, religion or ethnic groups. Surely, the policy won’t be viable without the implementation of the vision inherited from the EPLF and written into the National Charter at the Nakfa Congress in 1994 stressing that the vision of self-reliance, social justice can be ensured by guaranteeing the social harmony among the people of Eritrea. Thus, the vision of social harmony is fragile in the African continent and the question of unity is hence, what Eritrea strives to safeguard every day.

In doing so, bringing all layers of society under one umbrella at a young age is a key component in preserving this unity. The Sawa Warsai-Yekalo program is, henceforth, the product of it. Indeed, Sawa Educational and Training Center is the hub of the multifaceted Eritrean society by bringing youth from all corner of the country for their 12th grade into one area located in the vast Gash Barka region for a period of one school-year. Sawa is also the place where the famously known Eritrean Youth Festival takes place every two year where thousands of Eritreans participate. For the occasion, various slogans written on banners took over the landscape of major cities of Eritrea including the center of Asmara. In fact, the festival is just around the corner and participants were given an orientation day on Monday in the premises of the Municipality Hall of the Central region in Asmara and they are currently on their way to a weekend-long celebration and experience sharing from the 15th to 17th of July 2016.

The ambitious plan behind the Sawa Warsai-Yekalo program, without a doubt, was to continue to uphold the harmony and tolerance among the people of Eritrea. In other terms, Sawa allows the youth to learn from one another, to know other youngsters from all corners and layers of the society. As the youth are the key component of the very existence of Eritrea, celebrating the youth becomes a prima facie to our society.

The 7th festival organized by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) is working on the latest arrangement to ensure a successful weekend under the theme of ‘Menesey Merih Mekeyro’ or translated as‘Youth as the Core of the Turning Point’ in line with the 12th grade graduation of students from the 29th round. The organizing committee of the NUEYS includes youth from the diaspora and members of YPFDJ, as well as youth from Eritrea working hand-in-hand as the tradition will. The committee has been organized for the past six months from the hospitality aspect, registration, transport, media as well as entertainment, cultural performances without failing to recall the safety and health services provision to all participants.

On this occasion, Mr. Osman Abdulkadir, chairman of the coordinating committee of the festival told the Eritrean News Agency (ERINA) that the festival aims at bringing youth together to show their talent, commitment and accomplishment throughout these four days. Sawa festival, surely, has been for the past two decades, the center for awareness raising of the young generation. The most important values learned from Sawa are tolerance, hard work as well as maturity and strife against any cultural barriers especially in terms of gender equality.

In other words, young women attending their 12th grade in Sawa are able to detach from common patriarchal family sphere by learning how to sustain themselves and ensure their equal participation to their male counterparts. Many, hence, discover their hidden talent and make great achievements which are displayed during the festival. The Eri-Youth festival, this year, is expecting to bring the level higher with more than 20,000 participants including Eritreans from the diaspora and all regions of Eritrea eager to witness the achievements and potential of Eritrea’s youth. What is surely going to be unique is the participation of representatives of various youth groups and humanitarian organizations from Finland.

This morning, Wednesday, participants embarked at 6 in the morning from Bahti Meskerem Square, in Asmara, accompanied by their tour guides with two stopovers, one in Keren for a delicious traditional breakfast of the Anseba region and with a short time to visit the multicultural city followed by a second stopover in the city of Barentu, the central administration of the Gash Barka region. As we reach the 7th festival, the organizers are now experts in organizing such an ambitious event and being able to bring youth from all corner of the globe together with youth from all corners of the country has to be seen to be believed. This inspirational project allows the young generation to share ideas, experiences as well as learning about their culture and continue to forge their identity with pride and confidence. 

Strengthening the identity of the youth is, surely, one of the challenges faces in the global era with the increasing access to mainstream media and the internet. Hence, ensuring that the values and culture are passed into the next generation is primordial to Eritrea and, therefore, the investment towards the youth becomes more than ever critical. Accordingly, as written earlier, the festival aims at raising awareness through the diverse program prepared for the occasion. In doing so, participants will witness cultural performances and presentations, exhibitions as well as the official ceremony of the 29th round students graduating this year from the 12th grade after they have completed their matriculation examination as well as a three month-long military training as part of the Eritrean curriculum under the Warsai-Yekealo program.

In terms of awareness raising, various seminars on development issues and the role of the youth will be held throughout the weekend as well as the presentation of research papers. As the youth festival aims at celebrating Eritrean youth, the Soyra Excellence Award ceremony will be handed to exemplary youth in the country as well as diaspora youth who completed their high school. The general knowledge competition is also a way of raising awareness without failing to remember the innovation corner exhibiting the creativity of the young generation. Clearly, identifying young talents and encouraging them through such an award will certainly boost their will to achieve more. This system of merit to talented youngsters is crucial in terms of building self-confidence as they are entering their adulthood.

Besides, the bazaar area will be home to art exhibitions, participants will be able to visit the photo exhibition of the armed struggle as well as buying books at a fair price on different fields related to Eritrea while enjoying traditional dishes in one of about sixty different food and drink stands in the open air before joining the crowd on the traditional beats and songs by young Eritrean talents. 

Choosing Sawa as the hub of the Eritrean Youth Festival isn’t a coincidence, it reflects the government‘s will to produce a youth which is aware, hardworking, tolerant by giving the bases of life and values of the Eritrean society in terms of unity and social harmony among the people to ensure lasting peace. Further, Sawa is located in the Gash Barka region, a region home to major development projects such as the mining industry, energy, water and agriculture; adds to the significance of the festival. 

As the youth are the agents of sustainable development, such cultural event reinforces the awareness as well as the importance of living in harmony for the collective and for generations to come. As written in the National Charter, one of the six basic goals to attain the vision of social justice is cultural revival: Drawing on our rich cultural heritage and on the progressive values we developed during the liberation struggle, to develop an Eritrean culture characterized by love of country, respect for humanity, solidarity between men and women, love of truth and justice, respect for the law, hard work, self-confidence, self-reliance, open mindedness and inventiveness (EPLF/PFDJ Feb.1994:6).

In sum, Sawa can be translated as the ‘capacity-builder’ and allows students from all over the country to learn both at educational level but also at community level by learning how to live with others and having a sense of collectivism and tolerance to ensure national harmony. In other words, for the people of Eritrea to live in harmony, peace and stability, with no distinction along regional, ethnic, linguistic, religious, gender or class lines (EPLF/ PFDJ February 1994:6).

Happy Festival and Congratulations to the 12th grade graduates of the 29th round!

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Eritrea: Sawa Celebrating its Youth Reviewed by Admin on 9:05 AM Rating: 5

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