Cover Design: Ayman Hussein
Letters from Eritrea: Women reflect on their access to rights and services (2020) features testimonies adapted from a focus group discussion conducted with five women who emigrated from Eritrea within the last 2.5 years. These testimonies are deeply personal, introspective, and honest accounts of living as a woman in Eritrea. They shed light on the Eritrean government’s failure to serve and protect its people, especially women and girls. The government’s failures have led many people to choose to leave Eritrea forever, nearly always at significant personal risk.
In recent years, most of the discourse on Eritrea has focused on the plight faced by Eritrean migrants, and often limiting the conversation about push factors to indefinite conscription into the Eritrean National Service (ENS) and secondly, because of repression of press and religious freedoms. The testimonies in this report bring to light an understanding of the everyday realities of being a woman in Eritrea. Through their stories, we see that the government’s forceful appropriation of women’s educational and professional aspirations as well as the denial of their healthcare needs are just as important push factors for migration as is conscription into the ENS. Indeed, nearly all participants explicitly noted that there were positive facets of the ENS, even while they called for serious changes in the way the service is governed and administered. While it would be helpful to improve the quality of the health and educational systems in Eritrea, it is important to note that these issues run much deeper, cannot be resolved easily and cannot be separated from the political realities of Eritrea’s ruling regime, which derives its power from the suppression and exploitation of its own population.