There is something spectacular about “Tri Ebidi”, the month of January in Eritrea. At every turn, there is a wedding or some special occasion going on. “Tri Ebidi” means the merry month or the month of chaos. It is the month after the harvest; people have plenty food in their stores and granaries a lot of time to travel, visit and host parties. The ladies wear white cotton dresses embedded with captivating embroidery at the hems, sleeves; and a few have a cross-shaped embroidery in front. The “Zuria” and “Tilfi” has been worn on special occasions for generations in Eritrea, especially amongst the Tigrigna ethnic group. It is made from pure cotton yarn, traditionally spun by women and woven on wooden looms by men; however, today the craft has transcended the gender barriers and is practiced equally by men and women. The cotton is grown in the Gash Barka Region of Eritrea and sometimes the cotton yarns are imported.
At Halay training center in Asmara, a group of industrious young women are busy at work. They have been mastering weaving skills and hope to use the skills to make fabric for sale and support their families with the proceeds. The training is facilitated by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) and UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The centre currently has 30 inaugural trainees undertaking the training for six months.
Nejat Ibrahim (20) from Hazhaz, is one of the trainees at Halay centre. “I am taking this training so that in future, I can support myself and my family.” She said as her fingers meticulously work the loom. She weaves the fabric using sets of white and colored threads that are interlaced at the right angles.
Tsegereda Siyum has been teaching at the centre for several years and considers the programme a great opportunity. She said that the fabric and designs are part of Eritrean culture and there is a ready market for the fabrics. Explaining the technique, she said that the trainees use a lower quality thread at the onset of the training and once they master the techniques, move on to use quality thread. By the end of the training, they can produce traditional cloth that is market-ready.
Weaving training is just one among several youth empowerment programs in Eritrea that are funded by the Government of Japan in Maekel and Debub Regions of Eritrea. Japan is also supporting the rehabilitation and equipping of NUEYS youth vocational centres. In Adi Guadad sub-region in Maekel, the project has built a new fully equipped training centre. This centre will specifically cater for young people interested in skills such as bee-keeping, poultry farming, hairdressing, solar installation, and weaving. The site will comprise of one large training hall three labs for practical lessons, a cafeteria, and courtyard.
The project “Skills development, employment and migration” targets vulnerable youth and empowers them with skills for work, while at the same time addressing migration issues. It is a National project managed by NUEYS in partnership with UNDP Eritrea and supported by the Governments of Norway and Japan. The interventions address the development agenda under SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth.