Happy anniversary Hurya and Nazanet : Cheering the frustrated Eritrea independence Day

By Dr. Saadia Hasanen

Before I come to the main subject I would like to congratulate all Eritreans (especially women) on the forth coming Independence Day. Although we have a lot to do, the little that has been done deserve some celebrations.
The gesture of change across the Arab world reminded me about how it was when Shabia took over Keren in 1977. That is the time which I always come to remember. Seeing women, men, girls and boys who were not afraid, reluctant or shy to travel, fight and live with them side by side day and night for the sake one cause is the impression, fascination and nice memory that cannot be eliminated. The impression still me lives today. Now I ask myself why this impression is living inside me. I wonder if there is simple answer to that. One can say it is the seeing women driving military cars and carrying weapons? Another can be women living outside their home with strange men? Another can be women not being womanly on their appearances etc.?
As I see it, to me this was a turning point to see life with a different perspective, to question the issue of being a woman and at the same time to live ones life without any guardian. Looking from outside gave the impression that those women were independent and unique that defied the iron curtain of norms and values. Then the question is, do outside appearances mean liberation or respect to humanity? After all women are human beings and they deserve to be treated as humans that need love, respect and recognition from their male counterparts. Looking at what Eritrean women offered to the Eritrean case makes us to question if appearance and show off reflects the truth. Eritrean women offered, continue to offer and will offer their unconditional dedication to their people, country and family. However, they ge t nothing or less compared to what they provide. Then why are we so blind to admit the foundations they make.

Eritrean women played a crucial role in the Revolution. During that period women marched out of their traditional domestic roles and joined the restless world of armed struggle. They were involved in major events. Heroes such as Sadia Tesfu participated in the early days of the struggle. Amna Malkin who lead the Eritrean Women’s Union was also one of those who joined the revolution, early. In the early days women participated in collecting and passing information and weapons to the fighters. Later on they became active fighters and by the final stages of the armed struggle, they composed about 30 % of the fighting force.
The participation in the revolution was a turning point for many women and it made many of them to rethink about their lifestyles and to reconsider their roles in society. Nevertheless, despite the decisive the role of women during independence struggle; it will always be remembered as a time that changed the status of Eritrean women.
Two days ago I heard the discussion that was going on in the Eritrean local TV/ ERI- TV that claim that women are in the driving seat of the system in Eritrea. My question is why should people say so when they do not have any proof for this allegation. Isn’t it better to talk about the things that we have proof for. There is a universal claim that implies behind every useful man or good man there is a woman. Another say is, “If you teach a woman, it is as if you have taught society and if you teach a man it is as you taught individual.” To some extent these statements are not built on empty facts. Perhaps not all women or men are dependent on each other’s success but without women’s participation nothing will be achieved. Societies that do not recognize women and their efforts are not incomplete. This not only a democratic value but even religion preaches such issues. The reason why I carry on with the above issues is because until today Hurya and Nazanet are just names that provide appearance but not essence of independence. Having this in mind I would like to point out that we the Eritrean women in particular and Eritrean people in general are the sufferers of untruthful expectations. The pity is that those who suffered before us did so ages ago. Ours is taking place in this century where even those who used to pray to colonize are doing the opposite.

Having said that what can we learn from the following testimonies of Zimbabweaeb women. I am sure for some of us these testimonies reminders of how Eritrean women were contributing to the struggle.
The following testimonies are chosen from Irene Staunton book:
Mothers of the Revolution: Oral Testimony of Zimbabwean Women”
“Throughout the war, over and over again, Zimbabwean women fed and protected the freedom fighters and they risked their lives to do so. This they know and it is a fact of which they are proud. ‘The men were around, but they only used to say, “Hurry up [with the food] before the soldiers come and beat you up!”‘ ‘But, we said, the vakomana are everybody’s children ‘ This is the underlying theme which emerges strongly from these interviews and which now needs to be asserted: ‘Without the women, the war could not have been won. Now that we are free, I … am not very happy. My children cannot find employment. … Sometimes I think it is even worse than the period when the children were fighting. … The children are supposed to be free but the situation is not good. I feel betrayed because many children who fought for this country have nothing to do, instead they have turned to stealing and doing all sorts of bad things. –Betty Ndlovu (248)

Sometimes we comforted ourselves by saying that, once the freedom fighters won the liberation war, we would sit pretty. … We said, surely the vakomana will not forget us, after we have done so much for them. Such a thought would comfort us for a while… Now some of those freedom fighters are in high places and they have forgotten that we helped them. Today when we talk amongst ourselves we remember how we suffered and lived under such hardships and yet these freedom fighters have forgotten us. –Margaret Viki (151)”

“I think if the women had not been there the freedom fighters would not have won the war. Women did a great job. Cooking and providing food for the freedom fighters was a way of fighting on its own. … The fact is we fought a war. Carrying pots of food up the mountains is no joke. I do not think that the men would have managed if the women had not been there to do all this. I think they would have ended up being killed by the freedom fighters after they had refused to cook and carry food for them. The men were around but they only used to tell the women to ‘Hurry, before the soldiers come and beat you up!’ –Margaret Viki (156)”
“The comrades fought the war and got their rewards. Some are in the army, some got demobilization money, but some of us got nothing. First I served on the base committee and I am still serving the people, but I have not received anything, no matter how small, as a token of appreciation. … We who suffered, killed our chickens and goats, had children who died; we, mothers, who carried food on our heads to the guerillas, while others hid in safety, now we see that they are the ones who are getting paid and we are getting nothing. It is most unfair. –Meggi Zingani (135)”

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Posted by on May 25 2011 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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