Women: The Engine for Social Development
In any aspect of life, working together or synergy is a key element for success. The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) association is enhancing its success through this principle. The NUEW is one of the popular organizations of the Eritrean people’s liberation front. In its current form, the NUEW is an autonomous non-governmental organization dedicated to improve the status of Eritrean women.
The NUEW has notably made its due contributions at different stages of national development and it continues to do so. Its mission is to enhance the organization of all Eritrean women and ensure gender equality in all stages, thereby guaranteeing the equal participation of women in all domains and equitably distributing national resources to them.
The role of this organization is to advocate for the development of women’s confidence in themselves, a respect for each other and raise consciousness, to ensure their rights in political and legal systems. Moreover, it strives to enhance laws that protects women’s rights in a family including equal access to education and employment opportunities. Besides, the NUEW provides an advanced access to adequate health care and eradication of harmful traditional practices. The reduction of poverty for Eritrean women and their families is always a priority. The association conducts campaigns all over the six regions and several sub regions. Periodically, excellence awards are available for female prize winners in education.
Several projects aimed at improving women’s socioeconomic situation are also conducted. This projects enables the women to participate in income generating activities and create skillful occupations. the main projects are the Micro-credit program, handicrafts and horticulture projects.
Initially the aim of the micro-credit program is to provide women with minimal loans to empower them start income generating activities, such as mini-shops, household poultry farming, and vegetable gardening. The loans are provided in group form in order for the women to assist each other as well as develop a sense of responsibility among them. As apprentices, they are offered from 5,000 up to 10,000 Nakfa. The deal works out that they have to make profit out of it and pay back their loans at a promised time. Beyond this, the program leads the women to gain different work experiences, especially those residing in rural areas. Regular supervision is carried out such that women learn to manage their money properly.
Similarly, the horticulture project is launched in Dembezawl and Tekondae areas where women have been given a briefing about horticulture management. Land and various other accessories such as water pump motors and seeds are sponsored by the government to enable them to cultivate their farms. Economically, this benefited the women in two ways: it brought about good marketing activities for the village on one hand and it provided them a means of personal income generation on other hand.
One of the most interesting and important aspects of the women’s empowerment program is the handicrafts project. This project involves the training of women in making dolls, basketry, embroidery, pottery, ceramics and weaving. Traditional ornaments are made from local resources like animal skin, beads and woods. Most of the items used are recycled. On the other side, the creation of ceramics still done by traditional means.
A New Year and Christmas bazaar was held in the Harnet Avenue Street by the Ministry of Education for the last two weeks. It was organized by a group of women under the supervision of NUEW. The items in the bazaar include paintings, ceramic products, bead works, wigs and basketry. All of them handmade, representing quintessential Eritrean culture. The main aim of the bazaar was to magnify the creativity of Eritrean women and as an opportunity for people to exchange local gifts for the holidays.
One of the main focus of the NUEW is to persuade women engage in handicraft activities. This is for a practical reason for the women to avoid dependency on others and count on themselves and introduce a source of income. The majority of the group members are youngsters who are doing their national service. The secret to their success is engaging in their crafts during their leisure hours. Some of them are war-disabled veteran fighters. The Central region municipality, Ministry of Education, the Foreign Affairs and the Tourism Ministry in particular are the supporters of the association.
Ms. Negisti Gebremeskel, one of the architects and a principal organizer of the association, states that the purpose of the bazaar is to inherit handicrafts to the new generation and to make Eritrea renowned by the production. Ms. Tekea Tesfamichael, President of NUEW provides great support and opportunities to make them participate in different bazaars even outside of the country. In addition, the NUEW arranges a place for a monthly meeting for further progress in their work.
Through all this time, the NUEW developed linkages with the Women’s Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the East African Sub-regional Support Initiative (EASSI) for the advancement of women. The working partners of NUEW supporting advocacy, training and development projects and programs include the following: UNDP, UNFPA, USAID, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WFP and many other donor organizations around the world.
As unity and integration is power, so is the union of women. NUEW organize their members in groups for the reason that opportunities and success are established through integration. So far, the NUEW has made a tremendous impact in the lives of Eritrean women. As long as the organization is meant for women, it should be strong and hold numerous members in order to buttress positive future outcomes. Likewise, the next plan of the NUEW is to increase the number of members as well as achieve the equal participation of women in both politics and education.
The NUEW needs to work for the enforcement of Eritrean women who have the potential and knowledge if they are to work for the development of the nation. Instead of achieving their dreams by going abroad, they can achieve it by using their capability and live purposefully to improve their country. In addition, as long as women and mothers remain central to society, supporting them to accomplish success in socio-economic aspect remains vital. Overall, encouraging every Eritrean woman to live responsibly, improve their personal capacities and fight for their own right remains key.