As we thought about what we wanted to celebrate on International Women’s Day, we immediately thought of the many girls and young women we have had the privilege of getting to know through our work. Not only do we believe that it is especially important to invest in young women to see that are given the opportunities and education that they deserve, but we have also been continuously inspired by their determination, ambition and kindness.
We asked one of these young woman, Yohanna, to share her own reflections for International Women’s Day – what women she is celebrating today, what inspires her to be the woman she is, her hopes for her life, and hopes for the women in her home country of Eritrea.
Which woman are you most celebrating today?
The woman who has most inspired me in my life is my mum - such a strong and confident woman who had to work hard at an early age because of her own mother’s death, having to leave school in 7th grade. Although all of this was hard to handle at a young age, she pulled through with the strength of God. She is a woman who never settled for less and believed that as long as you use your full potential you can accomplish anything. She is a woman who never gave up and would push you to the maximum limit to get the best of you; a woman who knew how to love, teach, protect and provide.
In what ways has your mother influenced your life?
If there is anything that my mum taught me is to never waste time. If you can’t get to where you want to be, try there do something else to get you towards your goal, and you will finally get there in the end. I have always wanted to study fashion designing and studied art at high school, but couldn’t continue to University for several reasons, one of which is going to military service which is a duty for every Eritrean woman. And so I might not be at University right now, as I had hoped, but I know that it’s just a matter of time. I might as well prepare myself taking any related short courses I can, which is what I am doing.
Also, the reason I had to leave Eritrea was because of my faith. I am a Christian and no one is allowed to practice Christianity there, and so I had to leave. It is not easy to now spend my life living alone, without my siblings and family. I miss the love, laughter, even the streets where I grew up.
What are your hopes for your own future, and the future of women in your home country?
In the future I am going to finish my study and be a successful fashion designer, as I believe that nothing is impossible with God. If there is anything that I have learned in this life is, it is not to let your circumstances define who you and never to waste your time worrying about things that you cannot change because it’s not worth it. I also believe that God holds my future and no one can change that. I have learned to be still and know that He is in control of my life.
Finally for every woman in my country, I hope that they will have freedom of religion and opportunity.
At RSN, we are celebrating international women’s day by standing with and supporting amazing young women like Yohanna, who have overcome much and hold promise and hope for women in countries where there is still much to do for the rights and freedoms of women to be advanced and secured.
It is our hope that these young women, who have shown such strong resilience and perseverance, are given the opportunity to pursue their education in this country, and are in turn able to influence and encourage the women of their own countries.