“A female can be Anything and Everything because the Sky is the limit…” Genet Suyum (Shigom)
By :- Sabrina Solomon
Eritrean women have done a great deal for their nation, both in the struggle for independence and in building the nation. Our guest today, Genet Suyum (Shigom), is but just one example. Genet is a veteran freedom fighter, an author, a nurse, and a mother of three and a grandmother of four.
- Thank you for your time, Genet. Please introduce yourself.
Thank you for this opportunity. I was born and raised at a small village in Southern region. My parents were farmers, so I grew up working with and helping them in a variety of farm activities. As was the custom back then, my parents got me married at a young age. However, I was unable to settle down due to my dream to join my peers in the armed struggle for independence. So, I left my husband and joined the freedom fighters in 1976. I then took courses on First Aid and started working as a nurse in 1983. In 1988, I was assigned to the Department of Health and took a course in Nursing for about 8 months. I also started writing scripts and essays on the experiences that females were going through during that period (the armed struggle). I’ve kept on writing after independence and have so far written a couple of books.
- In your opinion, what role did the Eritrean independence struggle play in empowering females?
The society’s mindset during that time, which we grew up hearing, was that we, females, are inferior to men in every single way. But thanks to the struggle, we felt like we were born again. The struggle was a revolution to not only achieve independence but also to flush out the prejudices and male chauvinism. We cut our hairs and wore shorts just like the men and did everything they did. The struggle taught us that we are equal.
- While doing your job as a nurse during the struggle, you were also writing, right?
Yes, indeed. The first book I’ve ever written was a story about myself — all the ups and downs I went through, the loved ones I left behind and the education opportunity I threw away to just be able to participate in the armed struggle. My first book was about a woman who decided to run away from her husband before getting pregnant just to be able to fight for her rights. In writing the book, I was lucky to receive ideas from prolific writers such as Alemseged Tesfay and Solomon Tsehaye. The book was published in 1988, and I am thankful to the EPLF for the support I got to write the book. I wrote a couple more afterwards.
A book of a collection of short stories followed my first book. In 1988, I wrote a short story which I entered on a writing competition held at the time. The short story was nominated as one of the best in the competition. After the nomination, I wrote three more books. I have also contributed pieces for different publications.
- If you loved writing so much, why did you shift back to nursing then from your assignment, in 1994 after independence in the Newspaper Department of the Ministry of Information?
When I was assigned to work at the Ministry of Information as a writer, the busy schedule was not really suitable for me because I had kids to raise. Also, at that time, when I heard about an opportunity to learn nursing, I grabbed it. After receiving a diploma in Nursing, I worked at Orotta Hospital for seven years. In 2004, I was assigned to the offices of the Ministry of Health and have been working there ever since.
- As an empowered woman, what advice would you give young girls?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. I can’t tell you the hard time I went through and the support I got from my peers from the independence struggle. As a female, I am strong. I know life is short and no one lives forever. And I won’t live forever either, but my works will. So keep your heads up and keep on working.
If we, as females, don’t work to tell our stories and experiences, who will do it for us? We need more females to work as journalists and writers to tell many hidden or forgotten stories. A female can be anything and everything. The sky is the limit and I surely can guarantee every single female that we have a lot more in us. We should read and work to make our nation strong. Nothing is impossible and being persistent and disciplined is a necessity. Thank you!
- Any final remarks.
I am now writing a book that I want to publish very soon. It contains stories of hardships that people go through and social life in general.