As the saying goes, “Behind every successful man, there is a strong, brave, wise and hardworking woman”, it is also true without an iota of doubt: behind the successful Eritrean Gedli, there was a strong, wise, courageous, selfless, resilient and hardworking Tegadalit
This article is incomplete and imperfect. And the main reason is, I humbly admit, I am not the one qualified to write the complete, legendary and complex story. This article is also so condensed and short, I honestly feel embarrassed to post it. It cannot be an introduction either for it hardly scratches the surface of the harrowing, long, painful, burdensome and heroic history. But it has to be initiated because we the fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, husbands of the Good woman are witnessing a living hell that is befalling over the Good woman who is repeatedly and incessantly receiving the brunt of the force of tyranny, despotism and oppression. It is uncalled for; it is unfair, it is crime against humanity period.
When the Good woman suffers, we all suffer. When the Good woman becomes homeless and beggar, we all become homeless and beggars. When the Good woman is hungry, we all are hungry. When the Good woman cries, we all cry. When the good woman is bullied and harassed, we all are harassed and bullied. When the Good woman is imprisoned, we all are imprisoned. When the Good woman abandons her land and her roots we all become refugees. When the Good woman’s remains are scattered in the desert sand, our bodies are scattered in the desert sand. When the Good woman drowns, we all drown. When the Good woman’s body is abused, we are all abused. When the Good woman’s spirit is down, we all are hopeless. When the Good woman is violated, we are all violated. There is no way around these facts. But, Why, Why, Why, Why and Why?
This is how I introduce the Good tegadalit:
By nurture and nature she was Good girl. She was Good sister. She was Good Woman. She was Good Moslem. She was Good Christian. She was Good Gual Metahit. She was Good Gual Kebesa.
So she became Good Tegadalit. No question about these qualifications.
Unlike the Good boys, Good men and Good brothers of Gedli, she was ready-made for Gedli. This assertion is not exaggeration or misleading embellishment.
From childhood until maturity and then the balance of her life, she was meticulously, expertly, and harshly trained and primed for hard, tedious and painful work. Her Good mother and as a matter of fact all Good women in her surrounding did not spare or slacken to forge, chisel, and harden her due diligence, skills, attitudes, behaviors, speeches and intelligence for life time family, village and neighborhood services whether she was a nomad girl, village girl, town girl or city girl.
For the Good girl, leisure was unattainable dream. For the Good girl, Hope was vanity. For the Good girl, there was no way out. For the Good girl boredom was non-existent commodity. She could not run away for running away was tantamount to suicide and worse, dehumanization. She had no say. She had no right to disobey. She had no freedom. She had no room to wiggle. She had no time to rest. She cannot refuse. Absolute obedience, attention, readiness for punishment, concentration, and retention of what she learnt was her only salvation.
Mind you- the Good boys were spared of all these shackles that were singularly and directly imposed upon the Good girl.
The training regimen was conservative, repetitive, long, archaic, tedious and sometimes violent and abusive (by modern standards). Even the manner she sits; the way she walks; the manner she interacts with others; the style she dresses; the way she talks; the manner she eats; the way she cooks; the way she do manual laundry; the way she irons was dictated. Prudence, secrecy and discretion were of utmost importance during menstrual periods. No man, no boy should know or detect!! Exactitude was her Good mother’s unflinching tool. And the end result was perfection. The Good girl became a Good Mother, a Good Woman.
The Good was earned and deserved not merely given.
The Good girl was also trained to be tolerant, self-reliant and creative for without these virtues she will be mocked and she would become pariah among the Good women. She had to learn to make her own utensils for borrowing from others was shameful. During bad times she had to be creative to make something out of nothing to feed and clothe her family. If she succeeded, and better succeed, she will be showered with accolades that did mean nothing to her for she was also spiritually trained to avoid egotism and vanity.
The Good girl never complained when she awoke at down before everyone in her family and hand milled grains (tihina, lenkita) for Kitcha; milked the goats to make birah, tesmi and likai; fetched water for the family from far away ruba with Mai Zmelee Utro or waterskin carried on her back ; never flinched when she collected wood and carried the load on her back; never complained about fumes from burning wood (or Kubo,Fandia- dried dunk from cows and donkeys); never said I am tired while toiling (gardening, weeding) with a baby (sister, brother, niece, nephew, cousin) strapped on her back and so on and so forth.
No man, No boy does none of these back breaking tasks. It was Taboo. A Taboo that caused laziness, procrastinations and carelessness with dire consequences!
I don’t want the reader to think her mother or the women in her surrounding were cruel. They have been through it. It was singularly imposed over them as their natural [born] duty and responsibilities in Life. To the contrary the Good mother loved and adored her Good girl. She empathized and sympathized with her. The Good mother felt pain when she inflicted pain on her Good girl. But experience taught the Good mother that laxity was death. Consciously and sub-consciously the Good mother was preparing her Good daughter for the ultimate test. A test of Life or Death! The Test was to stoically bear the most painful of all pains (scientifically tested and proven): labor/delivery, unassisted by medication, nurses or doctors. Her Good mother also perfectly understood the cost and consequences of failure in a girl and it will be redundant on my side to elaborate more.
This was the Good girl who joined her Good brothers to fight Injustices. Because training never ceased during her upbringing, military training was not difficult for her. Actually it fitted her. Because hardship was part and parcel of her upbringing, the harsh life of Gedli was a variation and not novelty to her. In no time she became equal to the Good tegadalai and in some aspects, she excelled him.
The initial doubt [call it conservative, patriarchal or misogyny] about her was quickly evaporated. Not out of benevolence but because she proved it wrong. The Good tegadalit walked the walk and talked the talk. She stood her ground and confronted mockeries head on, with words and through actions.
The Good tegadalai walked, she walked equally. The Good tegadalai marched, she marched equally. The Good tegadalai battled, she battled. The Good tegadalai climbed hills, cliffs and mountains; she climbed hills, cliffs and mountains. The Good tegadalai descended valleys and gorges, she descended valleys and gorges. The Good tegadalai crossed river floods, she crossed river floods. The Good tegadalai got bites from snakes and scorpions; she got bites from snakes and scorpions. The Good tegadalai got malaria, she got malaria. The Good tegadalai was swarmed by lice, she was swarmed by lice. The good tegadalai tightened his belt, she tightened her belt. The Good tegadalai shaved or cut his hair; she shaved or cut her long, lustrous and beautiful hair. The Good tegadalai got wounded, she got wounded. The Good tegadalai stoically suffered from thirst and hunger, she stoically and bravely suffered from thirst and hunger. The Good tegadalai became disabled, she became disabled. The Good tegadalai died, she died. The Good Tegadalai paid dearly with his one and only life; she paid dearly with her one and only life.
But there was one exception, an exception that no Good man has to go through in his entire life. Through the entire shared and collective difficult and tragic journey, the Good tegadalai did not have to deal with painful menstrual periods. The Good tegadalai did not have to carry baby in his womb. The Good tegadalai did not have to suffer from the king of pains: labor and delivery. But she did.
The Good tegadalit did it and she did it with Courage and Perfection. The good tegadalit did it with selflessness. The Good tegadalit did it with True Love and True Service for her family –The Eritrea Family.
Along the way the Good girl mimicked the land, a land that does not provide much; a rugged and jagged landscape; a land that required resilience and bottomless patience. Even in Sahel she made it, a land that resembles Mars and not Earth.
As painful as it was, when the Good tegadalit had to leave her baby behind in the camp to fulfill her call of duty in the front, even though it was Heart wrenching for a Good mother to separate from her baby, she obeyed for she accepted that her child was Eritrea and Eritrea was her child. Who Mother could do this?
What was the Good tegadalit worth?
Is there a price tag for her Herculean achievements? I don’t believe so and if there is I do not have the brain to Qualify, Quantify, Calculate and Tabulate the exact and fair worth or the full price of her service. Like King David said, if the sky was my BRANA, and the OCEANS my ink, even this will not suffice to describe her marvelous, incredible and selfless History.
And here I leave you with the following marvelous sayings from Good and Famous people:
A free race cannot be born of slave mothers. – Margaret Sanger.
Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity. – Gandhi.
Women are the real architects of society. – Harriet Beecher Stowe.
With deep and everlasting Love and Peace to the Good Tegadalit.