Women in most Eritrean communities had to put up with a lot of burden and violence. The tradi-tional conceptions of women’s value and the chauvinist male attitude increased the malicious treatment of women. This, however, started to change after independence.
Here, I do not intend to do an inventory of the male underestimation and discrimination of women in my country because there are men who respect and take care of their wives, mothers and daughters as there are those who do not. You may not agree with me if I were to say “all women are great”, but I am sure most of you would agree if I said “mothers are great”. So, let’s take it to mothers, women with their own families.
Mothers are heroes, not of a specific time, but heroes of all time. Eritrean lifestyle is labor intensive. Whether it is the house work that is done by women or the farm work done by men are equally labor intensive. My great grandmother had her own challenges. In their time, they got married at the age of 16 or below. Marriage for a young girl of those times meant doing everything her mother did for her father. The housework was a challenge to those young mothers.
Eritrean traditional food in itself is not easy to make. For example, in most farming communties, after cultivation, the mother has to grind the cereals to make them into flour and then turn them into enjera (Eritrean unleavened bread). After sending her husband and her children to work, the mother feeds the cows, cleans the house and the cow dung, fetches water and makes sure everything is in place for her family, with a baby on her back. Then she carries food to her family at the farm and while they eat, she would help in harvesting, mowing or other farm work. Afterwards, the mother goes back to making dinner and feeding the animals and the sun sets without the mother realizing another day has passed.
There are also nomadic communities whose life is even harder and more demanding. Not to mention the risk of death that comes with every birth due to the traditional way of child birth and circumcision. Those were s o m e of the routine challenges especially for past generation of mothers. The next generation of mothers had a more or less similar lifestyle. Fast forward to the later generation, after Eritrea’s independence. Those women were better off with the technology and the essence of equality beginning to rise. With time, things started to change gradually and girls got better access to education and health care and child birth risks were reduced. You hear about working women more frequently, which shows that the mother began to be more than a house wife.
I know that when I become a mother, things cannot and will not be the same, but there are patterns of motherhood that are universal and remain constant. The things we yearn for in life such as love, care and understanding are all induced to us through one entity, our mother.
In addition to all this, a mother is strong enough to take up everything. Apart from all the work she does in and out of the house, a mother strives to make things right and if it is too hard, she waits pa-tiently. There is no one that gives second chances as a mother does. Even if her kids and husband do not respect her or give her the attention she deserves, she loves her family.
She loves her child before she even knows it, before the child even knows itself. She bears the memories of her child that the child is not aware of.
As an Eritrean woman, I have also wondered how Eritrean mothers could take the heartbreak of sending their very children off to battles where the possibility of survival is less than 20 percent. I can feel how hard it might have been to reach that decision but no matter how illiterate they were, they knew it won’t end unless they respected their children’s decisions to fight and unless they had taken the risk of being part of the struggle.
I cannot possibly mention all the fields women have managed to fight in, but you know your mother gets past everything in her way and I know my mother does. Not because she is muscular but because the love she radiates is an unbreakable shell around her children.
“Thank God women don’t know their potential” is a saying I have heard in many conversations with men of different ages. But what potential could a woman know that is better than motherhood. Mothers are strong during war and peace, happiness and sadness , discrimination and violence, you name it. That is what heroes do. They fight with endurance and courage till their last breath, whatever the situation. I would say mothers are the expression of true love, but that would be an understatement.
Before I wrote this article, I asked a friend what her mother meant to her. She said “I wouldn’t dare define her in any way; all the words in the dictionaries are not good enough to say a thing about mother.” Well…she is a hero of all time!!