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Life 6 - Three Sisters

Young Eritrean women like Commander Belainesh have fought in two wars - and been pioneers for women's rights. From the early 1970s, tens of thousands of girls from poor, conservative Muslim and Christian families - previously powerless in their communities - were enlisted by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front and integrated into the ranks as bona fide fighters.
A third of the guerrilla army were women. For 35 years they fought on the frontline and were treated as equals, serving as platoon commanders, tank drivers, barefoot doctors and engineers. By the late 1970s EPLF women fighters had come to personify an image of progress and liberation from oppressive traditions. But from 2002 on, thousands of them were demobilized.
Now they face life in villages where girls must be circumcised, wives must obey their husbands, and children are married off as young as 12. Reports suggest that half the women who fought on the front lines are now estranged from their families and live in abject poverty. Despite a new constitution intended to protect women's rights, the old ways - from bride prices to female circumcision - continue to be practiced.

Across the world, women soldiers like Belaniesh who've literally fought for their rights are struggling to hold on to their gains now that men don't need them. Their plight reflects a growing, controversial academic view that almost all 'liberation struggles' fail to realize their dream. On this count, Eritrea stands as a monument to the futility of taking arms to win rights which economic growth can more effectively fulfil.
For Commander Belainesh, it's time to decide whether her dreams of liberation have failed - and whether it's time to move on.