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If not me, who? If not now, when?

Fighters of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) with their children, 20th June 1978. The women hold Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47s.

If not me, who? If not now, when?
Simon weldemichael
College of arts and social sciences
March 2017

Awet: Men are better than women!

Rahwa: They are not!!

Awet: Socrates was a man! Plato was a man! Ban ki Moon is a man! Issayas is a man! All world leaders and leading scientists are men!

Rahwa: Yes! You are right. So what?

Awet: Men are better than women!

Rahwa: Your understanding of the success of these great men is very weak. They are not great simply because they are men.

Awet: Hahaha… What else can make them great except their manhood?

Rahwa: Cursed! They are great because they were trained by good mothers and encouraged by their wives. Don’t you know that behind every successful man there is a great woman?

Awet: This is a chimera. A wife is nothing but a burden carried by a husband to keep the generation going. For men, the role of woman is to have sex and bring back children to him.

Rahwa: You are revealing the wickedness of man. If all men are like you, the greatest curse for women would be to live with men. For your information, a woman is a human being not a sex object.

Awet: Rahwa, this is new and strange for me. Give me time to think.

Rahwa: Awet, this is not a matter of choice. It’s about your sister and mother. If not now, when?

Awet: Until I get sufficient information about the usefulness of women. I must first see her value before I acknowledge her equality.

Rahwa: Your acknowledgement is for you not for women. Women’s equality is a human right and not a tip or a kind of privilege for her contribution. Being a woman and human is enough in the quest for equality.

Awet: The problem is not ours. Nature was arranged for women to hold lower status. Even the Holy Bible ordered women to keep silent.

Rahwa: To keep silent?! If not me, then who is going to speak about myself and the rights that I have? And it’s not correct or ethical to employ the words of God selectively in a way to advance your argument.

Awet: No. No. No. God told wives to submit themselves to their husbands, to show obedience, women were made for men and so many like that.

Rahwa: Again, don’t be selective. Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female (Gen 1:27). Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them (1 Cor 3:19). He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD (Proverb 18:22). House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD (Proverb 19:14). So didn’t you read that?! Or is your Bible edited in such so as to serve your aims to degrade women?

Awet: Rahwa you are killing me with one word - love. I remember the hard days that I got sick of my first lady. Do you know I bowed in front of her more than I did for God? Man can’t breathe without women. Woman is the soul.

Rahwa: Yes! We have to live in a sprit of justice, love, respect, cooperation and equality. Cooperative life is more attractive than exploitative.

Awet: Yes, you are right! I’ll tell my little sister and mother about all those things and I have to assist them in their endeavor to stand up for their rights.

Rahwa: You have to do it quick, my friend! If not you, then who can help your sister…and if not now, when?

Awet: But…most women are not doing the same work as men.

Rahwa: If you want and expect women to do the same work as men, women must teach the same thing with men.

This conversation between an adult man and woman can mirror the real debates that occur every day. Many men hold the wrong position with regard to gender equality and they don’t know the implication of their repulsive attitudes in the life of a single family or the general development of the society. Women’s participation in every field has made great contributions to bury the undesirable attitudes from the surface of Eritrea. The dates back to the early work of the EPLF, which helped establish the early efforts toward gender equality. Eritrean women during the 30 years of struggle played a vital, incomparable role and they now have accumulated great degree of self-confidence. The participation and valuable contribution of Eritrean women revolutionaries during the struggle for independence and defense of the country in the face of Ethiopian aggression has helped to shift the psychology of Eritrean society from regressive attitudes of patriarchy and chauvinism. The young generation of Eritrean women, proud of their heritage, is working hard in the present and laying the foundations for a better future. As a result of their readiness to pay sacrifice to improve their conditions and the society, the women of Eritrea now have the feeling of pride and value in themselves. The independent and self-reliant approach for which Eritrea is known is paralleled by the self-confidence and self-esteem of Eritrean women. The progress of Eritrean women is like a thunderstorm raining freedom. If not me, then who can witness and appreciate the role of Eritrean women in the making of the country? And if not now, then when?

Attacks against women and children are attacks against any potential positive future for the society of a particular nation and international community as a whole. There is a close connection between women, family and country. The health of the family and country is determined by the status women in the society. The woman is the soul of the family, and the family is the basic core of society and country. Women are the real architects of society. Therefore, conflict between men and women is negative since women bring an equal and powerful addition for the common good of human society. Women not only have the capacity to transmit life. Much of the knowledge, values, ethics, and social skills which are so vital for society are diffused by women. Women are often described as bearers of love, teachers of honesty and mercy, and makers of peace and reconciliation. They bring warmth and humanity to a world which effectively contributes to the advancement of a culture of humanity and civilization. Women can be described as the torch of the society – since they help lead and light the path. However, to a great regret the emancipatory women’s movement was erroneously understood as “man hating” despite the fact that it has more to do with women than men. There are considerable amounts of men still plagued by patriarchal outlooks that perceive women’s equality as a threat to their survival. They regard domination as men’s best garment and are delighted in crushing women under the intolerable burden of inequality which breeds agonizing repression and exploitation. If not now, then when will we liberate our minds from the shackles of these repressive, regressive perspectives?

It’s impossible to clap single-handedly. Likewise, it is impossible to move forward separately without women. Women’s emancipation is not a project to be done by women alone. Men have to take up their share to break the chains of gender discrimination. For women - if anyone makes you feel less than you are, for the sex you are, stand up, speak up, and roar. If not you, who? If not now, when? Silence is putting the enormous sacrifice paid in the past to the dustbin. Assertions and confirmation should be our reliable mental nutrition, providing life and sustenance to positive thoughts. We need to expunge the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily. There is nothing more annoying in life or that makes the blood boil like domination and discrimination. Showing tolerance and acceptance of any kind of discrimination is allowing yourself to reside in the market of slavery.

A woman is an independent being, that has her own character, dreams and hopes. It’s mistaken to define a woman by comparing her with others. Some women tend to measure their value by comparing their own capabilities with those of others. The most important thing is to dig deep and empower yourself and your inner strength and enhance your unique identity. If in case your dignity is ridiculed, abused, or compromised, recall that no one can take it from you. Let’s reset our boundaries, restore our image and start from fresh beginning. It’s the duty of young women, especially the educated, to renew our revolutionary values and support women with the power of ideas. If not, now when? Glory to the women of Eritrea who were martyred to execute any kind of oppression and domination!

And men, it is time to step up and take tangible steps to support our sisters, mothers, wives, daughters…our fellow citizens. What will you do to support an inclusive, egalitarian society? If not now, when? If not you, then who?

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If not me, who? If not now, when? Reviewed by Admin on 5:58 AM Rating: 5

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