The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) is an organization that works towards the advancement and development of Eritrean youth. The mission of NUEYS is to organize and build versatile, enlightened youth that are aware and proud of their culture, identity, heritage, and history. It also strives to build disciplined, self-confident, mature, and responsible youth throughout the country, as well as among Eritrean youths in the Diaspora.
The formation of the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students is the result of the student movements, established in the 1950s against colonialism and later Ethiopian aggression, and which claimed the lives of hundreds of young people. These movements took the form of nation-wide anti-colonialism demonstrations in 1958, mobilized, and organized by Eritrean students. Students in the Diaspora then became part of the group of masterminds who planned and declared the launching of the armed struggle in the early sixties. In 1978, in the town of Keren, the first formally structured student association was founded. Since then, the organization has been involved in a range of activities that focus on the needs and aspirations of Eritrean youth.
Activities were temporarily suspended in early 1990 with the entire leadership and the youth, in general, mobilized in a national movement that led to the independence of Eritrea. The period between May 1992 and August 1994 was a time of reorganization for the union. During its seventh congress in August 1994, National Union of Eritrean Youth (NUEY) called for the revision of priorities and objectives to meet post independence challenges. In addition, this congress led the transformation from NUEY to the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS), an independent, non-governmental youth and students’ organization. The union conducted its 8th congress from 27-29 April, 2006. During the congress, representatives elected 45 members of central council, of whom 9 are members of executive committee, approved NUEYS constitution and designed a 4 year strategic which reflected NUEYS contemporary challenges.
NUEYS’ mission is to cultivate and produce capable youths by promoting and strengthening Eritrean youth in all aspects of national, regional, and international development processes.
This mission encompasses the values and ideals of the 30-year struggle for independence and, with the same spirit; NUEYS’ mission has been redrafted to include the new challenges faced by the youths in post-liberated Eritrea.
Thus, NUEYS’ main role is embodied in the following functions:
Advocacy and Lobbying: The first and foremost responsibility of NUEYS is to position youth issues in all spheres and at all levels, ensuring that the youths’ concerns and specific needs are provided for and, that the relevant institutions are aware of those needs.
Service Provision: NUEYS provides services that directly address the youths’ problems. However, NUEYS is not there to continue the provision of these services as much as to try to temporarily fill the gap until the responsible body assumes the service.
- NUEYS’ programs and activities are guided by its values. The following are NUEYS’ core values.
- Promotion of national unity, tolerance, and respect for the principles of democracy and human rights.
- Commitment to the total well being of young people physically, intellectually, emotionally, culturally, and morally.
- Active involvement of youth in decision-making and in development programs.
- Respect for human dignity, diversity, and unity.
- Pursuit of equitable and non-discriminatory opportunities for the development of the unique potential of young men and women.
- Respect and support for family integration.
- Respect for law and order, and acceptance of the principles of fairness, equality, and unity in everyday life.
- To build capacity of the Eritrean youth through various types of capacity building activities.
- To advocate for youth involvement, and participation in social, cultural, and developmental processes at the national, regional and international levels.
- To facilitate formal and informal networks among the youth and for youth at national, regional and international levels.
Aims and Objectives
The overall objective of NUEYS is to contribute to the well-balanced development of Eritrea’s youth through the provision of information, education, and services to address all issues affecting young people’s lives. NUEYS also runs with the aim to meet the following specific objectives:
- To build the youth to safeguard the sovereignty of their nation while retaining their culture and identity.
- To lobby government and other organizations for the benefit of the youth.
- To build a physically and spiritually confident youth with a passion for education and work.
- To prepare the youth to become active participants in nation building and reconstruction endeavors.
- To prepare the youth to retain the achievements of the martyrs and to pass it on to the coming generations.
- To support and promote the rights and equality of women and fight against negative gender perceptions.
- To advocate and lobby for children’s rights.
- To promote and actively participate in the protection of the environment.
- To ensure the role of the youth for the promotion of peace and stability.
- To establish bilateral ties with various regional, continental, governmental, and non-governmental organizations.
NUEYS’ strategies are holistic and take into consideration all priority issues that concern the youths.
Key strategies include:
- Working within the framework of the national objectives and policies.
- Integrating activities into packages or program components to deliver multi-messages and multi-services through training, advocacy, and service provision.
- Efficiency, effectiveness, and self-reliance — NUEYS’ operating principles in planning and implementing programs.
- Innovative ways of delivering services and messages.
NUEYS has developed a set of approaches that it will embark on to contribute to addressing youth development priorities. These are:
- Organizing the youths through a network of chapters, groups, and sub-groups, in all the sub-regions, and in schools inside and outside the country.
- Conducting training and educational programs on civic education, literacy, vocational skills, gender issues, human rights, democracy, and health issues.
- Providing health services including reproductive health services, clinical services, libraries, hot line counseling services, provision of condoms and contraceptives, first-aid services, and referral cases to hospitals.
- Providing information and publication—campaigns, seminars, and meetings are regularly conducted on current affairs and health issues to disseminate information and share ideas including through newsletters and IEC materials.
- Establishing and maintaining various clubs, cultural groups, recreational, and sport activities.
- Creating employment initiatives and income generating activities (fund raising, trust fund projects).
- Conducting and facilitating of research on youth-related issues for the sake of decision-making and problem analysis.
- Providing environment and community services, including values transfer programs.
Much of the Eritrean society remains traditional and patriarchal and most women have an inferior status to men in their homes and communities. The Government consistently advocated improving the status of women, many of who played a significant role as fighters in the struggle for independence. Since independence women have enjoyed a legal right to equal educational opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and legal sanctions against domestic violence. The law provides a framework for improving the status of women. In practice, males retain privileged access to education, employment, and control of economic resources, with more disparities in rural areas than in cities.
NUEYS tries to empower young women by increasing awareness of gender-based violence and rights of women in families and society at large. It also tries to improve access to and quality of health services. NUEYS conducts Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) sensitization program, through rights based approach, gender empowerment sensitization program, women leadership training program, anti-FGM clubs in high schools, and awareness on domestic violence and early marriage.
NUEYS Gender Program focuses mainly on domestic violence, early marriage, and female genital mutilation. Its main objectives are:
- To produce gender sensitive, well balanced Eritrean youth.
- To improve the participation of females in the higher positions within and outside NUEYS.
- To help protect the fundamental human rights of women and children (e.g. FGM, early marriage).
- To sensitize and enhance the awareness of the society on the decisive role of women for the socio-economic, political and cultural transformation of the country.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
With the target of reaching Junior and Secondary school students, teachers, parents and the general public, NUEYS strives to achieve the above mentioned projects through a number of projects. To eradicate the deep-rooted Female Genital Mutilation, NUEYS designs and implements Anti-FGM projects through:-
- Community awareness campaigns like drama and music shows, radio programs and video shows,
- Training youth trainers on IEC/IPC,
- Establishment of FGM clubs in high schools, and
- Distributing IEC materials, posters, scarves, T-shirts, caps, aprons, etc.
Gender Based Violence (GBV):
Specific objective: To increase awareness of GBV
Conducting community-based and mass media awareness raising activities on GBV and the rights of women – by drama shows, video shows in the seven target communities, radio programs, production and distribution of posters and leaflets, forming community action groups.
Improving access and quality of health services in the target areas – by conducting client satisfaction survey and implement changes to health facility; provide repairs, furniture, and equipment to health facility, facilitate the development of community-based emergency medical transport, conducting awareness raising campaign on clients’ rights and the importance of men’s involvement in infant and maternal health care.
NUEYS Gender Policy
- To design and draft NUEYS’ organizational gender policy.
- To build the organizational capacity to create gender awareness within and outside NUEYS.
- Case study on the reasons behind the absence of female leadership base in Eritrea.
- Draft NUEYS policies to gender equality within the organization
- Orientation workshops to NUEYS head quarter and regional heads
- TOT gender training course to youth leaders
- IEC materials production and role model workshops
- Gender related ratio programs.
Young people in Eritrea, like in many other countries, face health problems. Most youth problems include STI/HIV/AIDS infections, early/unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and family planning; adolescent reproductive health (ARH) in general.
NUEYS plays an active part in addressing/improving youth problems in partnership with sector ministries and various partners. As a result of this NUEYS, established 13 youth centers (out of which seven provide clinical services). Each center provides health services and recreational activities. Moreover, the centers give clinical and counseling services, condom provision, reproductive health services, peer education training and out reach programs in communities and schools on HIV/AIDS/STIs. These projects are being implemented in all six Zobas/ Sub-zobas even though the distribution of services and social amenities in all Zobas are not equal. Some Zobas have attractive recreational youth centers that provide clinical services; others not due to financial problems, and the location of a given Zoba.
- To contribute to the overall national health efforts in the country geared towards improving the health status of the youth.
- To ensure the well-being and health of Eritrean youth focusing on adolescent reproductive health and other communicable diseases.
Youth health activities are mostly implemented in health centers and youth clubs. The youth centers/clubs provide HIV/AIDS/STI, malaria, tuberculosis awareness raising and case management, counseling, peer education training, recreational activities, unwanted pregnancies and abortion (consequences and complications) and methods of contraceptive.
The outreach orientation seminars/programs target secondary school students, school dropout, out of school females, youth in military, youth leaders, and sex workers.
Peer educators training and peer education network: The major training activities include sensitization workshops for example on FGM issues, condom usage, Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH) training, first aid training and peer educators/counselors/motivators training.
The ARH programs enable youth to participate in ARH general knowledge competitions, establishing health clubs (e.g. first aid, anti-FGM, anti-AIDS, physical fitness), involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDs (PLHA) in campaigning activities, conducting debates, motivational rallies. Newspaper articles and radio/TV programs and spot messages contribute to high involvement and participation of youth, and are an effective tool in advocating to the community and policy makers. The ARH program also integrates an effective STD/STI and HIV awareness campaign among the various youth groups. The ARH program is integrated with other recreational youth activities, such as drama/music/ puppet/circus shows and sport. Recently the program collaborated with the national HAMSET control program.
All NUEYS IEC activities and productions were implemented in full coordination with the IEC unit at the Ministry of Health, with school activities coordinated with the Ministry of Education, and community work facilitated with the Ministry of Local Government.
Despite the continuous efforts conducted by the Eritrean government to improve the educational status of the Eritrean people and the Eritrean youth, many of the youth are still unable to access proper education, especially females. This is due to absence of schools in their surrounding, proper access to information, traditional barriers and absence of awareness of the importance of education. Missing opportunities to education will negatively impact on the youth’s role in nation-building as well as it will deprive them from achieving their dreams and striving for their rights and needs.
NUEYS implements several programs that address these problems like organizing adult literacy classes for disadvantaged youth like young mothers, nomadic youth and young IDPs, providing of extra tutorial classes among traditionally disadvantaged young girls and raising awareness among their communities, raising awareness of the constitutional and basic human rights among the Eritrean youth especially among the disadvantage small ethnic groups, assisting in creating a more favorable, peaceful situation of living among the youth in areas of high probability of violence like IDP and returnee areas and awareness raising in issues concerning the future lives of the Eritrean youth like the landmines, malaria and TB situations in Eritrea, encouraging outstanding students who scored four point in the Eritrean Secondary School leaving Examination with Zagre awards which includes monetary and material rewards.
- To contribute to the overall national efforts geared towards improving the educational status of youth.
- To address gaps of access to educational information regarding issues concerning the Eritrean youth and their future.
- To ensure the balanced, equal opportunity of education among the Eritrean youth regardless of sex, ethnicity, or religion.
NUEYS runs a Girls Education Project nation wide. This project provides tutorial classes for academically poor girls in all the six administrative Zones and campaigns for community sensitization to girls’ education. Also, this project includes research studies on community attitudes towards education.
NUEYS conducts a girls’ Scholarship project that is aimed at supporting academically outstanding girls who fall under traditional and economic pressures in their environment.
Constitutional and Human Rights Education project: NUEYS is a member of the National Constitution Committee and has been very active in advocating for the rights of youth, women, and families. NUEYS has also been responsible for providing comprehensive education for youth and the public on the Eritrean constitution, including constitutional and human rights. NUEYS has organized programs and campaigns on the Eritrean liberation movement, the rights of children etc. Activities included a public education campaign, production of relevant IEC materials, workshops and discussion groups among youth and the public, along with the active use of available media outlets such as radio and television for information dissemination.
NUEYS has created awareness activities about landmines for children living in areas affected by the problem. Awareness is conducted through campaigns, IEC material distribution, and folk media (plays, dramas, and puppetry shows)
In Eritrea, the estimated illiteracy rate is 80 percent, the majority of which are females. To address this problem, NUEYS has initiated a program in 2001 aimed at providing basic youth-adult literacy education. The program targeted in particular internally displaced people (IDPs), who lost access to basic educational services.
NUEYS presents ‘Zagre Award’ to outstanding students who scored four points in their matriculation exam. The award includes monetary and materials.
The young people need be empowered to have an active voice in their community. NUEYS has a youth empowerment program that aims at equipping the youth with project planning, implementation, and evaluation tools, and effective leadership in their society. Decision making and leadership training is included in this program.
NUEYS conducts many training programs that are evenly distributed among all of Eritrea’s regions. Such programs aim at exploring the capacity of the youth. NUEYS and its partners make high investment on activities that aim to enable the youth learn professional (skills) and become eligible for productive employment.
NUEYS conducts many programs that aim at empowering the youth so that they can have an active voice in their community as well as in their society as a whole. Some of these programs include job attachment programs, youth micro-credit schemes, vocational skills training and youth leadership programs.
- To empower the Eritrean youth with skills and capacity (technical and financial) to enter the business environment.
- To create young leaders that can lead the country in the future.
Micro Credit Scheme program targets disadvantaged youth such as school dropouts, displaced, disabled and young women who are single mothers. The program provides short-term business related course and provide them with micro credit scheme facilities.
Care and Support project is a pilot program that tries to improve quality of life of people infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS by training the beneficiaries in a short-term traditional dressmaking courses and by providing necessary equipment and materials.
Pastoralists Program – Pastoralism is a major profession and means of income in the Horn of Africa. It plays an essential role in the national economy and food security. Eventually this project will provide a basis for evaluation and analysis to prove the importance of pastoralism and agro-pastoralism in Eritrea.
Folk Media and Entertainment projects – Since 1995 two circus groups and since 1999 four puppetry groups have been established. These groups make unique income generating activities through indoor and outdoor entertainment programs, conduct awareness-raising campaigns. The awareness topic they address are FGM, HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, STDs, Gender, human rights, girls education, sanitation & hygiene, Red Cross principles, landmines and others.
Vocational Skills Training (VST) – Vocational skills training aims to create greater practical work skills among young people and by doing so aims to assist in the national reconstruction program and raise the quality of life of young Eritreans through on-the-job training. The project is especially designed to assist school dropouts and young people that belong to economically disadvantaged families. Trainings include in metal work, wood work, mechanics, general electricity, welding, plumbing, computer skills, typing, sewing and tailoring, as well as cooking.
The Targets groups include school dropouts, youth that have economic problems, young people,affected or infected by HIV/AIDS, youth returnees (from The Sudan) and deportees (from Ethiopia).