Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a powerful moral imperative. Equality and non-discrimination are core principles of the United Nations Charter, which was adopted by world leaders in 1945, and gender-based discrimination is prohibited under almost every human rights treaty existing in the world today. In addition, gender equality goes closely hand-in-hand with reducing poverty and income inequality, stimulating economic growth, boosting private and public sector performance, and promoting broad-based development. Not only do women and girls who have agency and are empowered significantly contribute to the overall health, well-being, and productivity of their communities and nations, they also greatly improve the prospects for future generations.
It is undeniable that over the years, considerable progress has been made in securing the rights of women and girls worldwide. At the same time, however, millions of women and girls in countries around the world continue to experience discrimination and violence, being denied of their equality, dignity, autonomy, and even their lives.
In Eritrea, it has historically been the rule that women and girls are regarded as inferior and considered as having little of tangible substance to contribute to society. An old, backwards proverb states that “like there is no donkey with horns, there is no woman with brains.” However, from the days of the protracted armed struggle, led by the EPLF, and in the years since the achievement of independence, Eritrea’s girls and women have proven strong and resilient exceptions to such outdated, patriarchal rules and barriers through their multifaceted excellence and substantial contributions.
For example, as Eritrea has registered impressive strides in health, young Eritrean women have been on the frontlines as medical and health experts and community healthcare workers. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the globe to a standstill, they were a crucial plank within the country’s strong, effective response. Additionally, in their roles as peer mentors, counselors, and educators nationwide, young Eritrean women have been providing others, especially young people, with the inspiration and confidence needed to take their destiny into their own hands.
At present, young Eritrean women and girls also excel within the education sector, both as students and teachers, serving as a powerful demonstration that education truly has no gender. Meanwhile, within Eritrea’s nascent mining sector, which increasingly represents one of the nation’s most important and successful, young women perform a variety of construction, driving, administrative, technical, and managerial functions. Another showcase of young Eritrean women’s talent, resilience, and substantive progress is their sporting participation and excellence. Although sports have historically been regarded as inappropriate or unfitting for girls and women in the country – beliefs deeply rooted in backwards traditions and norms – Eritrea’s young girls and women continue to smash those barriers. In athletics and cycling especially, the country’s young female stars are blazing a trail of success and putting the country on the sporting map. Hardly a week goes by without hearing about them setting some new record or winning some race.
Today, Eritrea’s young women and girls, reflecting agency, empowerment, and initiative, are contributing within all areas of society and in many diverse, important ways. Ultimately, they are playing a crucial role in their communities, the country’s socio-economic improvement, and the nation’s general development.
Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion