Labour history in Eritrea is an important aspect of the history of the country. This is demonstrated by the fact that, in the 1940s, the country has experienced the first labour syndicates and actions in the African continent. However, apart from efforts made by the NCEW and few others it has commanded little attention from historians and researchers. One way to preserve and increase attention and awareness on the history of the working people is collection and preservation of documents, collections and archives related to this history. Many of the documents regarding labour maybe unorganized or scattered around the country. They might be in private or institutional hands. The uneasy exit of the successive colonizers has to take the credit for this worrying situation. This project tries to address this problem in a three-phased work plan as described below.
The project’s main objective is to reconstruct and make available sources on the Eritrean labour history and activities for the purpose of research and intellectual use. Partners in the project are:
- From Eritrea: the Research and Documentation Centre (RDC), and its Director Mrs Azieb Tewolde, the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW), and its Chairman Mr Tekeste Baire and its Project Manager Eyob Tekleab
- From the Netherlands: the International Institute of Social History (IISH), Dr Stefano Bellucci
The project has three parts that correspond to three phases.
- Mapping (1 year). In a tentative period of one year, two researchers – one by the RDC and the other by the NCEW – will be in charge of locating, mapping, and appraising the archives and documents on factories, plantations, private collections, service/public institutions, audio-visual materials, etc. To complete the source of information on Eritrean labour history, it is envisaged the possibility of interviews of workers. Therefore, the researchers could also identify locations where groups could be interviewed. For each collection the researchers will:
- Describing material (which kind of material)
- Photographing (the collection and sample documents)
- Measuring (in meters)
- The researchers identified for the above mentioned task are from the NCEW, Mrs Freweini Araya; and from the RDC Mr Gebretnsay Damir.
- Inventory, arranging and digitisation (2 years). Once the collections are located, measured and described, the second phase will start. This is in connection with the NCEW project to create an archive of the organisation, according to the action plan of five years.
- Inventorying of the single collections using X-metal and/or Evergreen software (provided by the IISH). For this purpose, a technician will come from Amsterdam to give technical training on the use of inventorying software.
- Arranging of the material in its location would facilitate eventual description and digitization.
- Digitization will be carried out in those cases when documents are under threat of complete destruction and/or critical situations or when they constitute a real rarity.
- While in the process of mapping, inventorying, describing and digitizing researchers involved could also publish on Eritrean labour history using this material. Ideally, books and article should be published with internationally recognised publishers and/or in highly rated academic journals.