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$700 raised for National Union of Eritrea Women at a UNC fashion show

Eritrean Fashion Show
Lina Abdulrhman, a UNC-Charlotte undergraduate alumni, models a modern-day Tigrinya dress at an Eritrean Fashion Show sponsored by Campus Y and the GPSF on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at the Genome Sciences Building.

Women at UNC are doing what they can to create positive change in sub-saharan Africa's Eritrea.

Members of the UNC community hosted an Eritrean fashion show to support women's empowerment in Eritrea. Following a dinner with Ethiopian food and tea donated from local restaurants, attendees took a seat in the Genome Science Building auditorium for a fashion show with models representing each of the nine tribes of Eritrea.

Brightly colored balloons and Eritrean flags decorated the front of the room, along with fresh flowers and traditional straw artifacts. When each tribe was announced, and its unique characteristics described, its representative model made their way to stage-front in clothing specific to the region they were representing, with music traditional to the tribe. After, the models performed a group dance. 

In total, the event raised $713 to the National Union of Eritrean Women, Raleigh Chapter. 

The purpose of the fashion show was to highlight the nine tribes in Eritrea and experience food from Eritrea, said Hanna Tesfasyone, an event organizer and a doctoral student at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. 

“This Eritrean fashion show is created to raise money to support the development of a woman's training center in Eritrea,” Denden Merih Girmay, a model and announcer for the event, said. “We are seeking to improve adult literacy, computer skills and leadership for Eritrean women, which will in turn help develop the economic environment in Eritrea since women make up a majority of the population."

Social change takes time, especially in societies where subordination of women and gender discrimination are deeply embedded, Tesfasyone said.   

“However, recent peace climate in the Horn of Africa is the perfect window to capitalize on to make a change," Tesfasyone said. "The goal of the fundraising event is to raise money to build an environment conducive to the full participation of women in the job workforce to stimulate economic growth and create gender equality.” 

Eritrea, an independent state in Africa, is bound on the east by the Red Sea, on the southeast by Djibouti, on the south and west by Ethiopia and on the north by Sudan.

Incoming UNC Master’s in Public Health student Shewit Weldense models modern day Kunama clothing at an Eritrean Fashion Show sponsored by Campus Y and the GPSF on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at the Genome Sciences Building.

“Chapel Hill has always been a hero for Eritrean people,” said Alga Araya, the event's main organizer. “This is a small country in Africa, that just got freedom in the 1991, so it is basically a 28-year-old country.”  

Models were volunteers, Araya said. Clothing was donated from the Eritrean community members that live in Greensboro, Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Northern Virginia. 

UNC Campus Y was a main supporter for the event, as was the Graduate and Professional Student Federation and Oasis, an African student organization. 

Tesfasyone was inspired to help organize the event by her travel to Eritrea in summer 2018. She won a UNC Campus Y Global Engagement Award to work around the stigmatized culture of women in the workforce by promoting skills women will need to be employed. 

A set up of ceremonial items at an Eritrean Fashion Show sponsored by Campus Y and the GPSF on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at the Genome Sciences Building.

Women gaining skills to join the workforce will lead to reduced childhood marriage, teen pregnancies and increase the number of women in the workforce," she said. “The short-term goal of my project is to educate community members in Eritrea on the value of women as contributing citizens that need to enter the job workforce and not just vessels that bear children.” 

When we empower women of a third-world country with technology and education, economic change can be created, Girmay said.   


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