Tag Archives: United States

El Nino in East Africa: Update on Eritrea

In the Horn of Africa, a drought exacerbated by El Niño has directly affected the region, leading to an increase in food insecurity and malnutrition. This post presents an update on Eritrea.
According to a recent summary report by FEWS NET (a USAID-funded initiative),

“Consistent and above-average rain over the past few weeks has led to moisture surpluses throughout much of Eastern Africa. Torrential rain is forecast to continue over western Sudan and the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea, likely to elevate the River Nile and Al Gash River levels further and potentially resulting in flooding over many areas of Sudan during the next week.”

Furthermore, the report notes that,

“While the abundance of seasonal rain is expected favor cropping activities over many areas of the region, frequent and above-average rain over the western Ethiopian and Eritrean Highlands also raises the Nile and Al Gash River levels and thus increases the risks for river flooding along downstream areas in Sudan. For next week, the probability for above-average precipitation remains quite high…”
As well, a late July 2016 report by the FAO and the Global Information and Early Warning System, Good Prospects for Yields of 2016 Main “Kiremti” Season Crops, details that,

“The 2016 “kiremti” rains (June to September) started on time in Debud, Anseba and Gash-Barka regions, favouring land preparation and planting operations. As shown by satellite imagery, crops and pasture in most inland areas are currently in good conditions due to abundant and well‑distributed precipitation.”
Encouragingly, although vegetation health in some areas in the northern Anseba and southern Gash-Barka regions has been negatively impacted by soil moisture deficits, the report also states that the,

“Latest meteorological forecasts for the period from June to September 2016 indicate an increased likelihood of above normal rainfall amounts over most of the country, with expected positive effects on crop yields.”
This positive outlook is paralleled by the WFP which recently claimed that “the forecasts for the main rainfall season of July-October indicate on or above average rainfall across Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.” This is significant since it should promote favourable and improved crop production and pasture resources across the country. Furthermore, the FAO and WFP’s recently published 2016/2017 El Nino Seasonal Overview, which explores the ongoing and future impact of El Nino, suggests that Eritrea will be “moderately affected.”
Additionally, on 16 August 2016, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, released US$50 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for severely underfunded aid operations in six neglected emergencies, including Eritrea. Specifically, the press release states,

“An allocation of $2 million will support humanitarian partners in Eritrea in responding to current needs due to arid conditions and poor rains. Additionally, gaps in health care, water, sanitation and hygiene services will be addressed.” Furthermore, the aid will also help address the multi-sector needs of over 2,200 Somali refugees in Eritrea.

Importantly, this will continue to support Eritrea’s broad developmental aims. Notably, the United Nations and various other international partners have had a long presence in Eritrea, collaborating with the Government and other stakeholders to work towards a variety of socio-economic and development priorities. For example, the UN operational presence in Eritrea includes the WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNFPA, UNAIDS, FAO, OCHA and UNDSS, while the WFP  maintains a liaison office, and non-resident UN Agencies (such as IFAD, IAEA, UNIDO, ILO, and UNEP) are also represented and work in Eritrea.
In 2015,  US$ 3 million was allocated by UN CERF to support a range of development programmes (e.g. health, nutrition, etc.) in Southern Red Sea (SRS), Northern Red Sea (NRS), Debub, Gash Barka and Anseba regions. This was undertaken in close alignment and coordination with the 2013-2016 Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework (SPCF). The  SPCF, jointly signed by the UN and Eritrea, focuses on an array of programmes in the nutrition, health, food security, and water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.
As a final point, it is important to properly understand Eritrea’s “unconventional” approach to external aid. Specifically,  Eritrea turns down aid when it does not fit the country’s needs or its capacity to use effectively. Eritrea does not reject external support – it actively welcomes it, but only when it complements the country’s own efforts. The Government has long encouraged aid that addresses specific needs which cannot be met internally, which is designed to minimize continued external support, and which complements and strengthens (instead of replacing) Eritrea’s own institutional capacity to implement projects. This approach is rooted in a strong desire to avoid crippling dependence and to foster a clear sense of responsibility for the country’s future among all citizens.

Unfortunately, this approach is often misunderstood (or even dismissed). Instead, the country’s determination to rely upon itself and promote independence should be encouraged, and external organizations and potential partners should be committed to working with it on that basis.

Figure 1: Total US Foreign Aid – 2016/17 ($US Millions)

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Figure 2: UN CERF Project Allocations by Sector (2006-2015)

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Image 1: Local market in Eritrea

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Image 2: Local market in Eritrea

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(Image 2 credit: Solomon Abraha [@solomonasmara])

 

 


Why is the one of the world’s leading foreign aid recipients spending millions on internet hacking?

Last week, a large trove of emails was released showing how the Italian surveillance firm Hacking Team sold surveillance technology to governments around the world. The technology allows governments to infect smartphones and computers with malware to covertly record conversations and steal data. Amongst the numerous governments implicated was Ethiopia, with the leaked information showing that the government targeted Ethiopian journalists based in the United States. The Ethiopian regime possesses a deplorable record on freedom of the press, and the Ethiopian diaspora is vital in presenting coverage of the country’s domestic situation.

 

Notably, the leaked documents reveal how Hacking Team charged the Ethiopian regime $1 million in 2012 for services, while in recent years the regime has been one of the firm’s top clients (by total sales revenue). Somewhat amusingly, the emails also reveal that Hacking Team considered the Ethiopian government too “reckless and clumsy” in its use of the surveillance tools and thus representing a threat to expose the firm and its activities.

 

With little question, the leaked documents underscore the Ethiopian government’s status as a repressive regime with amongst the world’s worst records on human rights and free speech. However, serious questions arise when the leaked documents are considered alongside the fact that Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign economic assistance. For decades, various despotic Ethiopian regimes have been highly dependent on foreign aid. In 2012, it was the world’s seventh largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.2 billion in total assistance, the latter figure representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget. Moreover, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan, while over the years, the country has received tens of millions of dollars in western (especially US) military assistance. Ironically, just last week, the annual Global Humanitarian Assistance Report was published, revealing that across 2004-2013, Ethiopia was the world’s fourth largest recipient of foreign assistance, collecting US$5.9 billion.

 

Last week’s revelations mean that donors must ask why exactly is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a host of socio-economic and development challenges, spending large sums of money to illegally monitor journalists, rather than feed or clothe its people? While the international community has a moral imperative to assist governments and people around the world who are in need of help, it must also commit to ensuring that assistance is utilized appropriately. Otherwise, the international community becomes complicit in the oppression of the people it allegedly claims to want to help.

 

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Ethiopia’s $1 million bill from Hacking Team.

 

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A leaked email reveals that Hacking Team considers the Ethiopian government “reckless and clumsy” and thus a threat to expose the firm and its activities.

 

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Hacking Team’s Total Revenues per Country; Ethiopia is one of the firm’s top clients.


Instability and Insecurity in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the US, and UK

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently tweeted about “the volatile Horn of Africa.” The tweet provided a link to an interactive map presenting discussions of Regional Overview, Somalia’s Instability, Transnational Issues, and Armed Forces in the Region. Although useful, the CFR’s analysis fails to identify several of the key factors influencing instability in the Horn of Africa.

Briefly, while the CFR notes the harmful influence of Al-Shabaab, it should more clearly describe how and why Al-Shabaab arose. Doing so would reveal that, far from Somalia, Al-Shabaab’s rise, consolidation, spread, and ongoing attacks can be better attributed to failed policies originating in the US, as discussed by noted independent journalist Jeremy Scahill:

As well, Professor Vijay Prashad, a distinguished scholar, has outlined how the West’s catastrophic approach toward and meddling within the region has helped fuel the rise of Al-Shabaab:

Additionally, in its discussion of the “strife” in Somalia, the CFR should delve further and note the toxic role of Ethiopia within the situation, supported financially, militarily, diplomatically, and politically by the West (especially the US and UK). Previously, speaking in the British Parliament, MP George Galloway famously exposed the British government’s hypocrisy and complicity in grave human rights abuses occurring within Somalia, under the harsh, brutal occupation by Ethiopia (funded by the US and UK):

Last, the CFR erred in its use of phrases such as “border tensions” and “border dispute” between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Instead, the CFR should have described the situation for what it is: an illegal military occupation in direct violation of long-accepted international norms and laws. Furthermore, the reference to dispute suggests there remain disagreements about the border. Rather, the dispute was settled long ago through a “final and binding” international judicial process, and only one party (i.e. Ethiopia) fails to implement. Instead of seemingly downplaying the gravity of this particular issue, the CFR would be better in noting that an end to the occupation would go a long way to normalizing relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa and, in the process, improving  overall stability and security in the Horn of Africa.

These are just initial, brief (and humble) thoughts in response to the CFR’s tweet and analysis. The CFR does well to note the importance of the Horn of Africa to broader geo-political and regional stability and security. However, within this context, it is imperative that analyses of the situation and region consider all factors and reveal uncomfortable truths.


Multidimensional Poverty – important data from the OPHI

According to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “wherever we lift one soul from a life of poverty, we are defending human rights. And whenever we fail in this mission, we are failing human rights.”[1] However, in order to combat poverty (and thus fulfill rights), we must understand it. In this context, the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) represents a useful step forward. The OPHI aims to build and advance a more systematic methodological and economic framework for reducing multidimensional poverty in several ways, including: improving data, building capacity, and impacting policy.[2] Amongst the OPHI’s key contributions is its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI provides multidimensional measures of poverty, well-being and inequality, going far beyond traditional one-dimensional approaches to incorporate dimensions such as health, education, living standards, quality of work and more innovative dimensions.[3]

The latest edition of the MPI covers 110 developing countries (a total of approximately 5.4 billion people), and 803 regions in 72 of these countries. The 10 countries with the lowest scores on the MPI were (in descending order, and with MPI figures in brackets),[4]

  • Burundi (0.454)
  • Mali (0.457)
  • Guinea (0.459)
  • Guinea-Bissau (0.462)
  • Sierra Leone (0.464)
  • Somalia (0.514)
  • Burkina Faso (0.535)
  • Chad (0.554)
  • Ethiopia (0.564)
  • Niger (0.605)

Table 1

OPHI: Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014/15*

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Further exploring the MPI reveals what percentage of the population are both MPI poor and are deprived within each particular indicator. For example, the region with the highest rates of people who are multidimensionally poor and simultaneously deprived in nutrition is Affar, Ethiopia, while the region with the most child mortality is Nord-Ouest, Cote d’Ivoire. The region most deprived in sanitation is Karamoja, Uganda, while Wad Fira, Chad is most deprived in drinking water, electricity, and years of schooling. Examining sub-national regions and inequality, Nigeria has the most extreme regional differences in multidimensional poverty: in Lagos, 8.5 percent of people are multidimensionally poor, whereas in Zamfara, the figure is 91.9 percent. It is also noteworthy that nearly 60 percent of people living in the world’s poorest regions are actually not in the least developed countries.[5]

Overall, poverty remains the gravest human rights challenge facing the world today.[6] In combating poverty, the world has “a moral obligation to look more deeply at the issues of poverty so the most marginalised groups or regions [are] not left behind.”[7] The OPHI’s Multidimensional Poverty Index shows not only who is poor but also in what ways, ultimately helping to better understand poverty and shape more effective policies and reduction measures.

 

REFERENCES

[1] LINK

[2] http://www.ophi.org.uk/

[3] The MPI figure given as the percentage of the population in multidimensional poverty multiplied by the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

[4] The MPI figure given as the percentage of the population in multidimensional poverty multiplied by the intensity of deprivation among the poor.

[5] http://www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/mpi-2014-2015/

http://oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/big-new-databank-on-multidimensional-poverty-launched-today/?utm_content=buffer48ab2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

[6] http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDAQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ohchr.org%2FDocuments%2FPublications%2FPovertyStrategiesen.pdf&ei=7qC6VNuMHISfggT5pYBo&usg=AFQjCNEVWu9sEZ4nM_K_BEIpGxhQGtulvQ&sig2=maQRjwqrl3-OEjsYzKFbXw&bvm=bv.83829542,d.eXY

[7] LINK

* *Note that MPI ranges from 0-1. However, the scale in Table 1 runs from 0-100.

Explore the OPHI and MPI: http://www.ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/mpi-2014-2015/


World Bank Global Economic Prospects Report: Quick note on Eritrea’s 2015-2017 Outlook

The World Bank cut its forecast for global growth this year. According to its semiannual Global Economic Prospects report,[i] released today in Washington, the world economy will expand 3 percent in 2015, down from a projection of 3.4 percent in June.[ii]

Developing economies are expected to see an increase in growth from 4.4 percent in 2014 to 4.8 percent and 5.3 percent in 2015 and 2016, respectively. For Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) specifically, the period 2015-2017 is expected to see real GDP growth (from previous year) of 4.6, 4.9, and 5.1 percent. Influential factors include infrastructure investment, increased agriculture production, and buoyant services, however the positive outlook is subject to downside risks arising from a renewed spread of the Ebola epidemic, violent insurgencies, lower commodity prices, and volatile global financial conditions.

For Eritrea, the next 3 years, according to the report, are projected to produce real GDP growth of 3.0, 4.0, and 4.3 percent. These projections are slightly lower than those by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which projects Eritrea’s growth to be 7.3 and 6.8 percent in 2015 and 2016.[iii] However, even with the discrepancy, the sharp global oil price decline will support improvements in Eritrea’s trade balance (since it is an oil- importer). Specifically, across 2014-2017, the changes in its trade balance due to terms of trade effects are expected to improve by approximately 3 percent of GDP, amongst the largest in SSA (on the whole, SSA is expected to be adversely affected by the sustained decline in commodity prices).

Overall, for Eritrea, as well as other low-income, developing countries, such economic growth can be central to poverty reduction and broader development goals. For example, between 1970 and 2010, growth in average per capita income accounted for three- quarters of the income growth of the poor.3 In particular, a significant part of poverty reduction was attributed to growth in labor income.[iv] Increases in labor income are associated with a reduction in poverty through at least two channels. First, growth in the agricultural sector, the primary source of income for the poor, raises incomes more than growth in less labor-intensive sectors, in particular the natural resource sector. Second, the movement of labor from the low-productivity agriculture sector to the higher-productivity manufacturing and service sectors raises labor incomes, including of those of the poor.[v]

REFERENCES

[i] http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/global-economic-prospects

[ii] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-13/world-bank-cuts-global-growth-outlook-with-u-s-lone-bright-spot.html?hootPostID=67b113847d7c95651fe373d6cfe324d7

[iii] www.un.org/en/development/desa/…/geo201410.pdf

[iv]a) Inchauste, G. J.P. Azevedo, B. Essama-Nssah, S. Olivieri, T. Van Nguyen, J. Saavedra-Chanduvi, and H. Winkler. 2014. “Understanding Changes in Poverty.” World Bank, Washington, DC.

b) Inchauste, G., and J. Saavedra-Chanduvi. 2013. “Opportunity Knocks: Deepening Our Understanding of Poverty Reduc- tion,” In Understanding Changes in Poverty, ed. Gabriela Inchauste, João Pedro Azevedo, B. Essama-Nssah, Sergio Olivieri, Trang Van Nguyen, Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi, and Hernan Winkler, 1–12. Washington, DC: World Bank.

[v]a) Kuznets, S. 1955. “Economic Growth and Income Inequality.” American Economic Review 45 (1): 1–28.

b) Chenery, H. 1979. Structural Change and Development Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.

c) Ngai, L. R., and C. Pissarides. 2008. “Employment Outcomes in the Welfare State.” CEP Discussion Papers 0856, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics.

 


Mendefera Factory: Menstrual Pads, Education, and Empowerment

It was nice to see Dr. Sleemi’s photo of a factory in Mendefera, Eritrea. The factory manufactures menstrual pads which are distributed to girls in middle and high school. This initiative is important since it promotes equality, empowerment, and general development.

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Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and the developing world, millions of girls either skip school during menstruation or drop out entirely because of a lack of hygiene solutions – thus ultimately harming their (and the community’s or the nation’s) potential. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 10% of African girls skipped school during menstruation, with many girls missing up to 25% of the academic year or simply dropping out. Girls failing to complete secondary school are more likely to get HIV or become pregnant when they are young, and they are also more likely to have a greater number of children and earn lower wages. As well, studies have found that girls with access to menstrual pads report benefits to their self-esteem. Furthermore, girls with access to menstrual pads are able to concentrate better in school, witness increases in their self confidence, and they are able to fully participate in more daily activities while on their period. At the same time, they report that feelings of shame, isolation, and embarrassment improved.

As Eritrea continues to focus on a variety of national development challenges (including literacy, enrolment, and educational disparities), programs and initiatives like the Mendefera factory should be augmented and receive support.

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More materials:

Dr. A. Sleemi (MD, MP): @globalgyno

https://fiqre4eri.wordpress.com/category/education/

http://www.path.org/projects/sanitary-pads.php

http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/east-africa-breaks-the-silence-on-menstruation-to-keep-girls-in-school/

http://www.care2.com/causes/monthly-joy-access-to-sanitary-products-may-lead-to-better-education-for-kenyan-girls.html


Can the US mediate Egypt and Ethiopia’s water dispute?: US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s lessons from the Ethiopia-Eritrea stalemate.

Earlier this week, US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, questioned several expert witnesses at a hearing entitled “Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace.”[i] While the primary focus of the hearing was on the ongoing Ethiopia-Egypt Nile dispute, an extremely interesting point was raised by Rep. Rohrabacher regarding Eritrea. Specifically, when discussing a potential US arbitration or mediation role in the Ethiopia and Egypt disagreement, Rep. Rohrabacher outlined the US’ failure in arbitrating the Eritrea-Ethiopia 1998-2000 war. Rep. Rohrabacher stated:

“Let’s just note that, we did convince the Ethiopians at one point to agree to arbitration of a major dispute that they were in with Eritrea. And, this happened during the last administration, so you’ll know this is not a partisan remark, but I thought the behavior of our government in that whole episode was disgraceful, and has undermined our ability to arbitrate other disputes in the sense that Ethiopia, the decision of the arbiters went against Ethiopia in their border dispute with Eritrea…and we extracted some kind of other deal with them to help us with some sort of defense related deal…and let them off the hook, basically said they didn’t have to follow their arbitration, which meant the message to all of Africa was you don’t…you better skip out the arbitration because that just doesn’t work, even the Americans are going to discard it, what the result is. That was very sad.”[ii]

Rep. Rohrabacher’s comments raise serious questions about any possible US mediation role between Egypt and Ethiopia. What is further striking is his acknowledgement of the US’ utter failure in mediating the Ethiopia-Eritrea 1998-2000 war. Not only were the US’ actions wrong ethically, they proved to be great strategic blunders, since they led to more tension and conflict. Ethiopia has continued to occupy swathes of sovereign Eritrean territory, in direct violation of international law, and in blatant contravention of the rulings of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission.[iii] Moreover, the US’ harmful role was further compounded when Ethiopia – supported by the US – invaded Somalia in 2006, leading to a sharp rise in terror and insecurity in the region.

For over a decade, Eritrea has been the scapegoat for the ills of the Horn of Africa – sanctioned, characterized as intransigent, and bearing the brunt of the blame for the region’s instability, conflicts, and tensions. In direct contrast, Ethiopia has been held up as a strong US and western partner, receiving millions of dollars in aid. In 2011, it was the world’s fifth largest recipient of official humanitarian aid and received $3.6B in total assistance,[iv] representing between 50-60 percent of its total budget.[v] Additionally, Ethiopia’s 2011 share of total official development assistance – approximately 4 percent – placed it behind only Afghanistan.

While it is notable that US politicians, such as Rep. Rohrabacher, have begun to recognize – and publicly acknowledge – their administration’s mistakes in the region, much more tangible steps are required to ameliorate the situation and rectify past mistakes. With Ethiopia possessing a critical dependency on foreign aid, the US should end all assistance to the country unless Ethiopia abides by international law and respects Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

REFERENCES

[i] Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. Water Sharing Conflicts and the Threat to International Peace. 2255 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515. Nov 18, 2014 2:00pm

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1O1io-f-itY&feature=youtu.be (begins at 6:20)

[iii] http://www.pca-cpa.org/showpage.asp?pag_id=1150

[iv] http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/countryprofile/ethiopia

[v] http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files


50 Shades of Black – “Eritrean” – An Excerpt

1045147_10151698669956047_2082470228_nBelow is an excerpt from chapter six in 50 Shades of Black, edited by Carlton Mackey (2013). The first volume within a larger series, the book grapples with the issues of race, class, sexuality, skin tone, and diversity, and incorporates a multitude of perspectives. Titled “Eritrean,” my chapter examines the role and influence of my background, culture, upbringing, and heritage in the process of my own identity formation and engagement with the broader world.

[[Transitioning to another one of my favorite hairstyles, the Afro, there exists another underlying story, unknown to many. In my new environment, the US, the Afro is synonymous with the Civil Rights struggle. One outgrowth of the movement was its offer of a renewed sense of identity to the black community, particularly through a redefinition of personal style focusing on an appreciation of African beauty and aesthetics (consider the “Black is Beautiful” concept). With Africa being characterized as natural and exuding pride, what could better espouse this statement than the naturally, untreated hairstyle known as the Afro? Thus, for blacks, the Afro epitomized black pride, while at the same time rejecting notions of mainstream assimilation and integration.

While my Afro does make a political statement based on struggle, it is not one based on the black American experience. My Afro does not represent “Black is Beautiful,” it is not a return to natural, it does not present testimony of a rejection mainstream assimilation, nor does it showcase the sentiments of a longing for lost “Africaness.” No. My Afro is a statement of utmost  honor for the Eritrean Tegadelti. The contributions and exploits of the Tegadelti, freedom fighters of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), are mythical and legendary. Spending over 30 years in the barren, dusty deserts and harsh mountains of Eritrea, they persevered and delivered freedom against all odds. As a famous Time Magazine article discussed shortly after Eritrea’s independence:

“the Tegadelti should never have won; they were outmanned, outgunned, abandoned or betrayed by every all – simply put, their cause was hopeless. They won by force of character, and a unity and determination so steely that not all the modern armaments, superpower support or economic superiority of the enemy could withstand it” (Mcgeary and Michaels 1992).

Out in the fields, up in the mountains, and down in the famous, labyrinth-like trenches, the Tegadelti were known and revered for their unwavering commitment, principles of equality (such as placing women at the same level as men), steadfast devotion to the cause, and absolute fearlessness in the midst of danger, darkness, and destruction. Leading a Spartan-like existence, the Tegadelti were also unique for their iconic Afros, often having an Afro “pick,” fashioned out of wood from the wild, jutting out from their hair. Thus, my Afro is an honorable “shout-out” to the superheroes of Eritrea – the Tegadelti.]]

Beyond imbuing me with a profound pride or an understanding that anything is possible through hard work, my heritage instills a deep sense of obligation. To my mother. My brothers. My sisters. Asmara, my birthplace. Eritrea, my country. To those who sacrificed for it. Lives. Limbs. Families. Everything. And to those working today…endlessly, resolutely, and diligently to defend and develop it. I am blessed…I have been given much. Examples of excellence to follow. Golden standards to maintain. Quite simply, it is my duty. My responsibility. My honor. To give and contribute as much of myself as I can.

**For more information on 50 Shades of Black:

50 Shades of BlackFinal-50ShadesED2.indd


Child Marriage: Health and Rights – A Quick Note

***This is the first of a two-part analysis of child marriage. In this post, I outline several human rights and health implications of child marriage. In a future post, I will discuss measures and steps taken by Eritrea to combat the practice.***

The issue of child marriage drew attention at the recent International Conference on Family Planning. Specifically, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the African Union (AU), noted that “we must do away with child marriage,” since in too many African countries “girls who end up as brides at a tender age are coerced into having children while they are children themselves.”

However, child marriage is an important issue beyond just the family planning agenda. For example, child marriage may be intertwined with HIV/AIDS. Since child marriages are often non-consensual, girls may flee and subsequently fall into high risk activities such as sex work. Further, child brides may experience high rates of unprotected sex, have significantly older (thus more sexually experienced) spouses, and are largely unable to negotiate safer sex practices (Population Council 2005). As well, since young girls are physiologically immature, sex can result in trauma that increases the likelihood of HIV transmission (Laga, Schwartlander, Pisani, Sow, and Carael 2001: 932).

In addition to its potential HIV/AIDS ramifications, child marriage represents a violation of basic human rights. The human rights implications of child marriage most obviously begin with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC 1989). Ratified by every country in the world, bar the USA, South Sudan, and Somalia, the CRC seeks the realization of all rights of children everywhere.

Using the CRC as a standard, the practice of child marriage violates:

  • Article 3, outlining how the best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them;
  • Article 12, calling for the respect of the views of children; and
  • Article 19, obligating states to take measures to ensure protection against sexual abuse.

Also, since child brides often become young mothers, they are frequently forced to forego educational opportunities and basic childhood activities. Thus, additional violations are:

  • CRC Article 31, the right to rest and leisure; and
  • CRC Article 28, the right to education.

Incorporating the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW 1979), child marriage also violates Article 16 (2), which suggests that “[t]he betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect…” and that necessary action should be taken to specify a minimum marriage age (CEDAW 1979). Last, failure to protect children from child marriage can be seen as a violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1966) Article 10 (3), which outlines how “[s]pecial measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young persons…” (ICESCR 1966).

While many developing countries have passed legislation against child marriage, the practice continues. Most immediately, countries should remain committed to enforcing or strengthening laws. Yet, in addition, they should  promote advocacy programs, community networking, public health education, and the buy-in of local or religious leaders to overcome systems of inequality and patriarchy.


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