A well built body, I reckon she is in her late thirties; she is Fatma Mohammedsiad whom I met in the Training and Development Center at the Bisha Mining Company. She works as an induction officer in the Mining Company. When I meet her, she had been working for the past hours when she notices that it was already 6:00 pm; she started packing her stuff up and getting ready to go home. As she kept glancing at the buses that were there to take the workers of the Company to the nearby villages such as Mogoraib, Adi Ibrhim, Tekhreret , Akurdet and Haderat. Fatma was ready to get in.
“Are you from Mogoraib?” I asked her guessing that she was from the nearest village to Bisha.
“No, I come from Akurdet.”
“You mean that you come from Akurdet every day?” I can’t help from sounding a bit curious.
“Originally I am not from Akurdet but we moved there with my family, recently.”
Akurdet is 60 km away from Bisha; so, Fatma had to get up early in order to make breakfast for her kids and husband and take the bus exactly at 6:00 a.m.
“So where did you come from to Akurdet?” I kept asking her.
“We came from Nakfa and rented a house in Akurdet.”
She relocated from Nakfa to Akurdet and now she travels 120 km to and from Bisha – Akurdet to make a living for her family. Some years ago women in most Eritrean villages remained to be house wives and live at the mercy of their husbands or fathers. Fatma’s story gestures a real transformation in the Eritrean society.
I was in awe of Fatma and I stared at her in amazement and pride. But there was something in my mind bugging me and I tried to understand how is it possible for a young girl born in a remote and conservative locality where, due colonialism was totally neglected from education and civilization, managed to get out of there and make a living of her family surpassing the prejudice of ignorance and poverty. Some years ago it was unthinkable for young girls and boys to go to school or be allowed to acquire a skill. Only after independence such restrictions were avoided. In fact the motto since the early post-independence days has been ‘free schools for everyone’. So I was eager to know the story of Fatma going to school.
“I studied agro-industry in Hagaz,” she said with a sense of pride.
I felt proud for her as well; I wanted to talk to her longer but the bus was ready to take the villagers home. “Well, go on now I don’t want you to lose your bus,” I told her.
As I watched her strolling along the line of the buses, I was thinking about the social transformation that is going on in the remote Eritreans villages and villegers.
Here she was this hardworking girl from Nakfa who attended college in Hagaz; got married and now in Bisha trying to make a decent living for herself and her family. Fatma on her uniform, when she reached the doorstep of the bus, I remembered one last question that I had to ask her.
“Fatma! Hey Fatma!” I shouted.
“Aywa,” her answer was instantaneous.
“I was just wondering about one last thing, I mean what did you study in the College?”
She smiled and said: “I studied veterinary.”
By now I was so fond of her that I could not help myself to ask her if she was willing to take a picture with me.
“It would be my pleasure, yes of course.” And she gave a shy smile. We took some shouts in one of the offices.
As I stayed behind and watched the buses leave taking Fatma and many others to their respective villages, I couldn’t help wondering how thankful the villagers were to the government of Eritrea’s policy of transforming all the localities. Many young people have access to life changing opportunities that have enabled them to provide a helping hand for their families and make a decent life of their own as well.
By; Hzbawi Mengsteab
Translated by Micol Berhe