The people of Eritrea
Population: 4,561,500 (2005 estimate)
0-14 years: 44.8% (male 1,023,900; female 1,019,400
15-64 years: 51.9% (male 1,170,800; female 1,194,700)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 74,300; female 78,400)
Eritrea population pyramid (age and sex distribution) for 2003
Population growth rate: 2.51% (2005 estimate)
Birth rate: 38.62 births/1,000 population (2005 estimate)
Death rate: 13.53 deaths/1,000 population (2005 estimate)
At birth: 1.03 male/female
Under 15 years: 1.00 male/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male/female
65 years and over: 1.05 male/female
Total population: 0.99 male/female (2005 estimate)
Infant mortality rate: 74.87/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
Total population: 58.0 years
Male: 61.0 years
Female: 59.5 years (2005 estimate)
Total fertility rate: 5.61 children born/woman
||Central highlands of Maakel and Debub
||Western lowlands across the northern
mountains to the coastal plains
||Red sea coast (Foro) and the hinterland
south of Asmara and Massawa and the highlands as far as Hazumo Valley
||Also known as Dankils, along the
southeastern Red Sea coast and on the Dahlak islands
||Also known as T'badwe in western Barka (Tessenei)
||In and around Keren
||Also known as Baria, on the western slopes
and Barka plains
||Northern Red sea coast
*) predominantly Christian
**) predominantly Muslim
Jiberti Muslims regard themselves as an additional
Another ethic group is the Tokharir, migrant Nigerians who have
settled on the banks of the Gash river on their way to or from Mecca.
Eritrean women played a central role in
liberating the nation in 1991 and in defending it when it came under renewed
Ethiopian attack in 1998-2000. Because of the important role women played in the
society and economy, the Eritrean government has sought to ensure their full and
equal participation while eliminating the disadvantages that many of the women
experience. The National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) with its 200,000 members
is an umbrella organization upholding the rights of women throughout Eritrea and
the Diaspora and securing women's participation in the Eritrean society.
"Victory to the masses"
Mass participation has become a vigorous aspect
of Eritrean nation building. It was the success of the Eritrean liberation
movement fighting against Ethiopian imperialism. Not only in the military
field, but also in building an Eritrean "grass roots" politics of
self-government. In absolute contrast with Sudan, with its still raging civil
war, the warring clans of Somalia, shooting each other to pieces, and ethnic
based liberation movements in Ethiopia, Eritrea's nine ethnic groups live in
harmony and peace.
High levels of popular participation in the
country's reconstruction and development are the hallmark of Eritrea's
post-independence growth. at the same time, instances of crime or corruption
have remained lower than anywhere else in the world. This speaks to the high
levels of social cohesion and civic pride that under gird the social and
economic development process.
The National Service, written into Eritrea's
Constitution as an obligation of citizenship, requires all women and men over
eighteen to undergo six months of military training and a year of work on
national reconstruction. The value of the National Service Program is that it
compensates for Eritrea's lack of capital and reduces Eritrea's dependence on
foreign aid, while welding together Eritrea's diverse society. It also places
women in a condition of heightened gender equality for eighteen months, as
service in the EPLF had done during Eritrea's war of independence.
With a million Eritreans in exile from a total population of 4 million, this presents the
phenomenal scenario that one out of every five Eritreans lives abroad.
Thousands of Eritreans have been forced into exile because of their opposition
to Ethiopia's annexation of their country in 1962. Young people were sent
away for fear of forced conscription into the Ethiopian army and to avert the daily cruelties
of the 1961-91 Ethiopian occupation. Attacks on civilians suspected of
supporting the ELF and EPLF also led to a vast exodus of refugees.
The majority of the exiles walked, some fore hundreds of
miles to the Sudan, where half a million remain as refugees. Another 250.000 are scattered
across the globe in Europe, Canada, the United States and closer to their home in Saudi Arabia
(100.000), the Middle East, Kenya and Ethiopia (100.000). Eritreans
abroad remain staunchly loyal to their motherland and their families. These
exiles raised much of the financial support for the thirty-year liberation
struggle, and faithfully continue to assist family members back home both
monetarily and materially.
Eritrea - diversity and unity - young Eritrean women in
Eritrea, in some respects, was the way I had dreamed all of Africa
might be one fine day. Never in my life had I felt a greater sense of
community on a national scale. Nor had I seen a place with such
wide-open arms and so generous a heart.
Julia Stewart - Eccentric Graces
Perhaps Eritrea's greatest resource is its people.
Though impoverished, the nation has from the outset showed
self-reliance, vigor and independence. Eritrea is not about to become
anyone's vassal and this attitude has elicited both passionate
admiration and furious exasperation from visitors, aid workers and
international organizations alike. Towards the traveler, Eritreans
show exceptional politeness, hospitality and friendliness.
Lonely Planet, Ethiopia and Eritrea, second edition
the wonderful people of Eritrea - Anne Alders
The Beauty of Eritrea - Johan