Arriving in Eritrea I had in mind a number of prejudices usually conveyed in the media on the status of women in that country to the east of the Horn of Africa. Well, just put your foot on Eritrean soil, I found that it is the women who lead the dance! When checking my passport by the Police Air and Eritrean borders, it is a young man with delicate features about 25 years taking care of me.
He takes time to find my visa and enter information about my identity on the computer.
One of his colleagues that mark is in trouble, she takes my passport teasing in passing and takes care of my case very quickly. She apologized for the wait time and again teasing his colleague who smiled back.
I immediately realized that the woman was far from Eritrean submitted. The rest of my trip was to check that first impression. During my journey Eritrea I had the opportunity to talk with Mrs.
TekeaTesfamichael, President of the Association of the National Union of Eritrean Women.
I also met with her team and visited the premises in Asmara, capital of the State of Eritrea. Mrs.
Tesfamichael confides: “Before independence, women’s rights were very limited. The men commanded. During the armed struggle 30% of the fighters were women.
Their commitment had two facets: the will to fight for the independence of their country and the will to fight to allow women to have equal rights with men.
After independence in 1991, women’s rights were recognized, enshrined in law and became a reality on the ground.
“ The Eritrean had prepared for this battle before 1979 and the Convention of Women in Geneva. Today, men and women have equal rights in the eyes of the law.
For example, after marriage, the wife is entitled to 50% of the inheritance; the woman keeps her maiden name and not named after her husband.
“The State ensures equal pay both in the public sector than in the private.”
In the current government, there are three women ministers. They are mutually responsible for justice, health and tourism.
The association of the National Union of Women aims to educate and raise awareness among the population about the importance of women’s rights issue.
It has also a role of defense and monitoring the proper implementation of laws in this area.
A help desk receives and accompanies victims to justice. The problems faced by women in Eritrea are 4 types: Rape remains a taboo in some areas but is strongly condemned when a complaint is filed, usually a minimum of 15 years imprisonment; excision, which was abolished by law in 2007 and is virtually over, the association makes teaching on this subject throughout the country; physical and moral violence; and forced marriage.
These practices exist and are not denied, but the association says ‘’ the facts are much more marginal than is denounced and relayed in the media abroad. ‘’ Mrs.
Tesfamichael also insists on another subject: “You should know that the Sudanese and Ethiopian women fleeing their countries and pose Eritrean requesting asylum in Western countries saying they were victims of rape and violence.”
The president of the association suggests that falsely sulphurous reputation of her country in this field is kept deliberately in the media by those who have any interest to suggest this and exploit this situation. The association is represented by a correspondent in each department and to address urgent issues easier.
She ends the interview by saying that surely the next president of the State of Eritrea will be a woman. I also had the opportunity to meet the Minister of Justice, Ms.
Fouzia Hashim, who told me that in particular the courts, juries of 3 persons compulsorily included at least one woman.
“Without women we would not have done anything and especially not get our independence.
Eritrea is unjustly attacked because if there’s one country that actually protects the rights of women, this is it.
We are far more advanced on human rights than in many other African countries. Everything is written in the laws and the laws are strictly enforced here.
“ The Civil Code is offered every Eritrean citizen. The Minister has shown me, it’s the size of a large dictionary.
“At school, children learn the code so as to know their rights and can defend themselves without necessarily having to get a lawyer.”
In universities, the majority of students are women. Women are very present throughout the Eritrea, a country run by women Eritrean society. They have a major role.
Their important role in the armed struggle for independence is not there for nothing.
The Minister of Justice, for example, was committed in the army to 14 years. Thiras, a young Eritrean age 23 I met in a bar in Asmara tells me that Eritrea is not a perfect country, it certainly still remains room for improvement, but the rights of the Women here are well protected.
I saw in the street laughing women and couples hold hands. Dress the part, women are not fully covered, especially the young. The women come out at night safely.
I can testify that what I have seen is far from clichés and readymade images conveyed in most media.
In Eritrea, it is the women who command and who run the country