Eritrea observes 16 days of activism against gender based violence

Nov 20, 2015

This young ambassador for girls and women's rights made a captivating presentation during the closing ceremony. Photo: © UNDP Eritrea/Mwaniki

During the month of November, the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) organized activities to amplify the campaign against gender based violence in the 6 regions of Eritrea. The 16 days campaign under the theme ‘Equality starts at home’ culminated in a colourful ceremony, held at the NUEW headquarters in Asmara on 20th November 2015. The event was attended by Government ministers, Ambassadors representing foreign missions in Eritrea, UN officials, members of international community, media and NUEW staff among others.

The six regions of Eritrea organized workshops for training and panel discussions on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the practice of ‘virginity check’ on young girls and early marriages which are practiced in some communities. They also organized trainings on access to education, highlighting the importance of girl education. Other activities included holding parades to raise awareness on gender violence, cultural shows and knowledge competitions. The activities were covered by mass media; TV, radio and newspapers on a daily basis hence creating more awareness at the National level.

In one of the regions; Southern Red Sea, NUEW held various trainings on the dangers of FGM. “Following its success, the local administrator asked the organization to establish a committee to look into FGM issues and spearhead its eradication in the region. We plan to use this opportunity to engage about all other harmful practices in the region.” Said Senait Mehari, NUEW programs coordinator.

This year, the 16 days of activism against gender based violence global campaign focused on the relationship between militarism and the right to education. At the event to mark the closing of the 16 days campaign NUEW president, Ms. Tekea Tesfamichael said that the organization was committed to ensuring that there was equal access to education for women. She also emphasized on NUEW’s dedication in eradicating FGM in Eritrea. NUEW has partnered with UN agencies in Eritrea (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR and UNAIDS) who support the joint programme on equity and advancement of women.

Speaking on partnership, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Ms. Rose Ssebatindira said that over the last 18 years, UNDP’s partnership with NUEW has strengthened NUEW’s capacity to equip many Eritrean women who have become ambassadors of women’s rights. She added that every year, the campaign provides a platform for Governments, UN, NGOs, CBOs and other stakeholders in Eritrea  to undertake  activities aimed at raising awareness, influencing behavioural change and reinforcing the high level political commitment to end gender based violence.

The activities undertaken through the 16 days campaign were funded by UNFPA Eritrea. During the event to mark the closing of the campaign, UNFPA Representative Mr. Dan Odallo said that violence deprives women and girls of their human rights to health, education and participation in the affairs of their communities and nations. “For the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to have a meaningful, positive impact, actions must be taken to break the cycle of violence against women that denies millions of women and girls their fundamental human rights and their ability to contribute to the economic and social progress of their nations.” He added.

A presentation by Ms. Rigat Tesfamichael of NUEW detailed the achievements and challenges of NUEW. One of the key achievements is that girls’ enrolment in schools increased from a low of 38.8% in 1993/94 to 78.7% in 2012/2013 academic year.  The organization faces the challenge of raising the funds needed to adequately implement all its projects.
 
Going forward, NUEW is committed to continue engaging communities on eradicating all harmful practices and advocating for the rights of women in Eritrea, especially the right to participation in development programs.

Dancers at the closing ceremony

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, UNDP HIV, Health and Development team and the gender team collected personal accounts from women around the world who have been subjected to a wide spectrum of violence. A number of these testimonies highlight the intersection of gender based violence and HIV infection. UNDP HIV, Health and Development is publishing these personal testimonies. You can read them here