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Breaking Free from Tradition: Women, National Service and Migration in Eritrea

Milena Belloni

Abstract

Drawing from ethnographic research with five young women living in Asmara (Eritrea), this article investigates the intersection between migration aspirations and the desire for gender –and sexual – emancipation. While an increasing amount of studies focuses on the effect of migration on gender roles and sexuality, this article aims to understand the gendered nature of migration aspirations at their outset. After a brief review of the role of women in Eritrean history, I illustrate how limited social and political freedom across the country specifically impacts on young women’s education and life trajectories in Eritrea today. Then, through the stories of my research participants, I show that migration is a space not only to imagine alternative futures but also to conceive different forms of womanhood.

Keywords

women; Eritrea; migration; aspirations; youth; gender roles

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