BBC: Tough choices for Eritrea's Three Sisters

Life on the Edge: Eritrea's Three Sisters

By Steve Bradshaw
Executive Producer, Life on the Edge

Twenty-two-year-old Leyla is about to celebrate her daughter Menal's first birthday. She will have to decide whether the celebrations should also include Menal's circumcision.

Although her family are taking it calmly, Leyla's actually wondering whether to call it off.

Leyla has only had two children. But Amina, who is 35, has had six. Now she is pregnant again and has to decide whether to have her seventh at home.

The alternative, as Amina sees it, is to take a big risk and trust a new local hospital.

Howa has an easier decision to make - but not as simple as you might think.

Eritrean baby, Menal
Menal's mother must decide if she will have her daughter circumcised
She is being offered a hectare of land in a government scheme supported by the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The land would help Howa feed her four children, who she is bringing up on her own.

The trouble is that local custom dictates women should not plough the land and, without ploughing, it is hard to see how she would have any crops.

Leyla, Amina and Howa live in Eritrea's Gash Barka - a vast drought-prone region and a rarely filmed corner of the Horn of Africa.

Our three sisters do not know each other, but they do have a friend in common - Belainesh Seyoum, of the National Union of Eritrean Women.

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