- Basic Information
The End of Battle and Returnees from Sudan
One million people became refugees and Internally Displaces Persons after 30 years of Independence War and two and a half years of boundary dispute. As a result, most of the refugees escaped to the neighboring country, Sudan. Based on the Tripartite Agreement among the governments of Eritrea, Sudan, and UNHCR in May 2001, the returning process for refugees began. JEN has been carrying out Assistance for Resettlement since 2002.
Harsh Conditions for Female Returnees
For many years, Eritrean refugees were living in Sudan, dependant on the assistance from the international community. Even if they returned to Eritrea, they could not find housing or means of living, and many could not even imagine their lives after the stopping of food assistance. In particular, there were many female returnees who became the heads of the households after losing their husbands in the armed conflicts. These women, as heads of household, had to keep supporting their family. Under such conditions, assisting these women in linking their skills with a source of income, is a key to sustainable resettlement.
2) Our activities in Eritrea
1. JEN's Assistance Program Policy
Assistance in the Resettlement of Returning Female Householders
The land of Gash-Barka near the border with Sudan is fertile, and there is a strong agricultural industry. Therefore , more than 90% of the returnees choose to resettle in this region.
However, even though Gash-Barka is environmentally favorable for agriculture, it is not easy for female heads of household to generate their own income and feed their family. Most of them have to depend on the support of the local residents,and there is a great need to support their independence. It is culturally difficult for Muslim women to engage in the service industry; hence, agriculture is one of the few alternatives for securing a source of income.
In some of the villages that accepted returnees, the number of residents doubled. This has caused great strains on the villages. Therefore, considering this situation, JEN promotes the resettlement of returning female heads of household by assisting both returnee and local women to become socially and economically self-reliant.
2. Current Project
Assistance Project for Female Households
Although the government provided agricultural land for the returnees, there was a shortage of agricultural materials such as tractors. Consequently, female heads of household cannot fully utilize the land.
JEN established a Union of 360 female heads of household and started the Assistance Project for Self-Reliance by providing tractors. Through this project, female heads of household could use tractors without any costs and cultivate the land. By producing and selling agricultural products, they were able to secure food and generate income. In addition, the Union could rent the tractors for a fee to non-Union local residents, thus subsidizing maintenance costs and ensuring a sustainable project.
From June 2005, Eritrea entered a fecund farming season, and cultivation is going well. JEN is currently planning to extend a similar project in two other regions. The expansion of the project would lead to more female heads of household generate a stable income through agriculture.
In the Gash-Barka region, in addition to tractors, there was a great need for poultry farming. JEN organized a Union for female heads of household like in the Tractor Project, and started the Poultry Project, providing the necessary machinery and materials such as chicks. Through this project, female heads of household sell eggs, actively participating in Union activities in order to generate income. Female heads of household, who are socially disadvantaged, generally stay indoors. In that sense, this project also promotes women's participation in society.
Furthermore, JEN does not only provide the materials necessary for poultry farming, but also gives technical training in raising chickens, and maintaining and managing the chicken factories. In addition, we also assist women in strengthening their business management skills, including sales and management of budgets. By doing so, we support them to be able to develop and improve this project on their own.
3. The Previous Project
Needs Assessment and Participatory Workshop Centering Female Households (2002/4 - 2003/3)
Prior to the planning of the Tractor and Poultry Project, JEN conducted interviews to 900 female heads of household in Gash-Barka in order to clarify the living conditions and needs of the target population. In addition, JEN also carried out a workshop using participatory rural appraisal methods for 300 female heads of household. These initial research projects resulted in the subsequent income generation activities.
Career Training Project for Dismissed Female Armies
As a JICA's project, JEN conducted a vocational sewing training program for former female soldiers. Most of the participants were beginners in sewing; nevertheless, they keenly participated in the theory sessions, pattern makings, and the actual practice of using sewing machines . As a result, after the two-month course, 20 women were able to gain sewing skills.