Generally, views are understood as a particular way of considering or regarding something, while musings basically refer to a period of reflection and thought. Accordingly, “Views and Musings” is all about sharing various thoughts or comments on recent events or topics related to Eritrea, the surrounding region, and the world.
1. Rwanda’s recent crackdown on skin lightening products raises important questions for us…
Recently, the Rwandan government has been sending officials across the country to enforce its ban on skin lightening (or bleaching) products. Although Rwanda first instituted its ban in 2013, it had not strictly enforced it until November, when the recent crackdown began. Government officials and police are now patrolling markets in the capital, Kigali, and in provinces across the central African nation, seizing skin lightening products from vendors. The country’s president, Paul Kagame, has also strongly endorsed the crackdown on Twitter, calling skin lightening “unhealthy.”
Skin lightening products often contain harmful chemicals and ingredients, such as mercury and hydroquinone, which can cause liver damage, reduce resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, increase anxiety, depression, and psychosis, and lead to a host of other serious health or psychological issues, according to the World Health Organization. Although skin lightening is a centuries old practice, it is believed to have increased in recent years. Today, it is a multi-billion dollar global industry, and it is quite popular within the Caribbean, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as among dark-skinned populations within Europe and North America.
In Eritrea, skin lightening is increasingly popular and many individuals, particularly females, engage in the practice. For example, as wedding season now kicks off across the country, many young women (such as brides, bridesmaids, and others) will incorporate lightening products into their preparations. It is also not uncommon for many to remain indoors and make efforts to avoid the sun so as to ensure a light, bright complexion for the big occasion. Notably, throughout the country, a broad array of skin lightening creams, lotions, and soaps are readily available in general stores and cosmetics shops, as well as from roadside vendors or street merchants. Like many other parts of the world, skin lightening in Eritrea is driven by a number of complex socio-cultural, historical, traditional, and other factors.
Given the growing prevalence of unsafe skin lightening products marketed and sold in Eritrea, as well as the significant individual and public health issues posed by the practice, Rwanda’s recent crackdown ought to serve as an impetus for Eritrea’s authorities and policymakers to consider taking measures.
For starters, Eritrean public health officials, safety regulators, and national policymakers should enact – and then strongly enforce – strict legislation and detailed guidelines on skin lightening products and their ingredients. Of course, it should be understood that with skin lightening being a complex, multidimensional issue, this would be only one of many important steps that would have to be undertaken in order to fully address the problem. Furthermore, it will also be highly critical for our society – individuals, families, and communities – to come to terms with the socio-cultural and historical factors that underpin and drive skin lightening. As a people, we must fundamentally recognize, genuinely respect, and truly appreciate our long, eventful history, our wonderful heritage, our beautiful, diverse culture, and our unique, multifaceted identity. In the process of doing so, we should expect to be confronted with uneasy questions.
In May 1962, the Black revolutionary leader Malcolm X gave a memorable address in Los Angeles, California. That day, he stood before the audience and asked: “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?”
Although Malcolm X spoke those words well over a half-century ago, they still remain some of his most powerful and well-known. Today, in Eritrea, across Africa, and throughout much of the Global South, as we grapple with the growing challenge of skin lightening in our societies, Malcolm X’s words are particularly resonant. It is high time that we become unashamedly proud of ourselves and “love the skin that we’re in.”
2. Eritrean Football: The Next Generation attracts attention…
Although cycling is Eritrea’s most popular sport, football is also played and followed by many. Up and down the country, on formal pitches, small patches of dirt and grass, or back alleys and streets, Eritreans of all ages can be found playing intense pick-up matches or small tournaments. Eritrea has a local league that boasts a long, proud history, while every week, the country’s pubs, cinemas, and cafes are packed with fans that come to watch European matches and cheer on their favorite teams.
Recently, the website Goal Click featured a special on Eritrean football. The photo gallery and story, Eritrean Football: The Next Generation, authored by Ermias Ghebreleul, a local sports columnist and reporter for Hadas Eritrea and news anchor for Eri- TV, has attracted a great deal of attention on social media. His pictures are fantastic, capturing football in our nation in all its raw, pure beauty, while the stories that accompany them are touching and inspirational. Overall, the feature is wonderful, offering us another look at local lives and football’s role in our communities and society.
Goal Click, which was launched in 2014, is a European-based initiative that shares stories from the world of the beautiful game and it offers people all over the world a chance to show what football means to them. Goal Click sends analogue cameras to people around the globe so they can capture the game as they see it. Subsequently, the images and the stories behind them are shared on the website. To date, there have been features from approximately 30 countries, with many more soon to be released.
If you would like to check out Eritrean Football: The Next Generation, you can do so at www.goal-click.com/eritrea/. Meanwhile, you can get more information about Goal Click or explore photo galleries and stories from other countries at www.goal-click.com.