Dayanit Haile was born in Addis Ababa and learned up to sixth grade there. Due to the border conflict, Dayanit had to migrate to the USA. After living in America for a few years, she moved to Canada where she’s still living. She is an active member of the Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ) and the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW). As a result of her active participation, she was elected in 2021 as the chairperson of Canada’s chapter of NUEW.
Thank you for your time! Although you were born abroad you speak fluent Tigrinya. What’s the reason behind this?
The main reason that I am fluent in Tigrinya is my parents. We were forbidden to speak foreign languages at home. When we were living in Addis Abeba, we were encouraged to read Hadas Eritrea newspaper daily. We also used to visit Eritrea every summer which allowed us to practice the language more.
Based on your experience, what are the challenges and opportunities the Eritrean diaspora, especially the young generation, face?
Obviously, the challenges and opportunities vary from state to state. Most of the time the challenges outweigh the opportunities when you live away from your country, your people and the place you truly call home. The language barrier is one of the main problems. Life is hectic and you’re always in a rush in order to be economically stable. In general, every day is a challenge, as you try to get along with people who are different from you in terms of language, culture and religion. But I dare say that if you are able to tackle all those challenges, there are opportunities that are crucial and fundamental for living a better life. They include higher education and access to upgraded technology.
As part of the activities you organize with the National Union of Eritrean Women, you have recently contributed a good amount of help to several women living in Eritrea. Enlighten us on that?
Honestly speaking, I don’t think that kind of help is worth mentioning. The idea to provide help was initiated by a member of NUEW, Akberet, who lives in Edmonton. Her idea was to give back to women who are in the process of building their lives. When every member of the union and people who were not members supported the idea, we were able to accomplish it in a short period of time. When some of the active members and I came to visit Eritrea the plan was in full swing. I consider what we did might serve as an example to all the Eritrean diaspora community. I believe we all should give back to our country, especially to startuppers; it doesn’t really matter whether what we give is big or small. The things we consider small gestures could actually bring about great changes in those people’s lives.
Now that you are in Eritrea, what kinds of things were you expecting to experience and were your expectations met?
Everything in Eritrea has exceeded my expectations. I am very impressed with the pace of progress our country is making in its development. But what impressed me most is the awareness of the people in following the Covid-19 guidelines.
I had the privilege to witness the development works accomplished by young women who live in Adi Quala, Mendefera and Keren. I also attended and enjoyed several graduation ceremonies of vocational schools, shows by young artists and panel discussions on current events in Eritrea organized by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students. I’m also happy that I was able to visit the villages where my ancestors used to live in.
My experience has led me to conclude that the Eritrean youth, whether in the army safeguarding the sovereignty of our nation or working in the public sector serving the people, are immensely invested in the development of our country. The love of their country is very visible in their contribution. We, members of the Eritrean diaspora, owe it to them that we are able to come to our homeland.
Do you think the Eritrean diaspora are contributing to the national development programs?
Eritreans at home are contributing all they have to the development of the nation. But as one hand cannot clap on its own, those of us in the diaspora have to do our share. The youth, in particular, should be aware of every situation happening in our country. In order to do that they should be active members of the different Eritrean unions and participate in Eritrean community activities.
Educated Eritreans living and working abroad should come back to Eritrea and share their knowledge or live and work at home for some time. They should also open bank accounts in the homeland and help develop the country’s economy. The youth should know and cherish Eritrean history, be politically conscious and do their share to present the Eritrean narrative to defeat efforts made by Eritrea’s detractors to denigrate it.
Parents must raise their children to grow up having feelings for Eritrea, and the community should create paths for them to be connected to their homeland.
What’s the source of your leadership?
The source of my ability to lead is the people of Eritrea, especially the history of our heroic fighters during the armed struggle. Also, I have been taking part in every union activity since I could remember. That has allowed me to learn how things are run and what leadership is.
Do you believe the Eritrean diaspora has an attachment to the same norms as Eritreans who live inside the country?
One hundred percent; they are still attached to the culture. Especially women. You should have seen them during annual national festivals, holidays and wedding ceremonies. They are ready to do anything that would make them feel as if they were back home in Eritrea. They brew Siwa, make porridge and bake injera and himbasha. You can’t imagine the challenges they face in making those things. But they are so determined to make them that they inspire everybody to follow in their footsteps.
Any other message?
My last few words are more like a statement — it’s good to be Eritrean. I am proud to be Eritrean and be part of great culture and history.
Thank you for your time!