INTRODUCTION: Eritrea with 1200km coastline and more than 300 islands in the Red Sea is strategically situated in the eastern part of Africa. It joined the international community in 1993 following liberation from Ethiopian colonialism in 1991 through an arduous thirty-year armed struggle.
The socio-economic character of the Eritrean population comprises of more than 80% agro-pastoralists, with the rest being mainly workers, merchants, students and professionals (EPHS 2010). There are nine ethnic groups – Afar, Bilen, Hedareb, Kunama, Nara, Rashaida, Tigre, Saho and Tigrinya, each having its own language.
Traditionally, the societal role and contribution of women in Eritrean has not been appropriately valued. Despite this patriarchal attitudes, the Eritrean women joined and played a vital role in the independence struggle. They constituted 30% of the total fighters carrying out different roles such as teachers, technicians, soldiers, doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, public administrators, etc…. In addition to their contribution in the struggle for self-determination, women fighters took the lead to fight the deep-rooted patriarchal and gender inequalities through the establishment of women’s association.
The women’s association that was established in 1979 was fully empowered to mobilize women, raise awareness for the elimination of traditional harmful practices against women, advocate and lobby for the issuance of proclamations and policies on gender equality, among other roles. This has laid the foundation of social justice and gender equality in Eritrea. In recognition to this important contribution, the Government implemented policies and programmes geared towards ensuring gender equality and creating a platform for women to strive in all aspects of civil society and government.
The document aims to share synopsis of Eritrea’s experience and achievement in the empowerment of women. It highlights the institutional and policy innovations that continues to be critical in this endeavor.