Theme: Minority rights

Increasing the visibility of Libyan women in politics

poster from the social media campaign organized by Bani Walid SPP to promote women's participation

We are working with Social Peace Partnerships across Libya to increase the meaningful participation of women in local politics.

Um Saad speaking to local media about her election campaign
Um Saad speaking to local media about her election campaign

Libya’s political process requires the participation of all its people, including women, youth and minorities. The active participation of women in politics has the potential to improve the daily lives of all Libyans and shape a future Libya for all its citizens. Yet, set back by years of civil war and political instability, Libya’s progress towards democracy and women’s participation in politics has been slow.

Since the Libyan revolution, women face significant barriers to participating in Libyan political life. In 2011, a law replaced the Gadhafi-era ‘Shaabiyat’ system, which were subject to the authority of appointment rather than election, with a new municipality structure. An elected council of nine representatives presides over each municipality, by law only one has to be a woman.

The current municipality quota system is a key challenge to women’s meaningful participation in Libya’s political process. This is particularly true in smaller towns where the seat reserved for women is often a tokenistic gesture to follow the law. In reality, the role of elected representative offers little opportunity for women to influence municipality activities and decision-making.

In spite of these challenges, Libyan woman are pushing back. They are demanding greater representation and opportunity to support their local communities through political inclusion and action. We are working with local Social Peace Partnerships (SPPs) across the country to increase the visibility of women in local elections and politics.

Social Peace Partnerships bring together a diverse group of local people, with a shared vision of Libya becoming a safe and inclusive country. Members include representatives from the local authority, civil society leaders, elders, community leaders, business owners and anyone who is interested in peacebuilding. PCi builds the skills and capacity of the SPP members through various trainings so they can solve community issues and develop an ongoing response mechanism to community conflict. PCi also helps to build positive relationships between the community and the local authorities. 

Focus on three Social Peace Partnerships supporting women’s active participation in politics

In Nalut, a town in Western Libya, women’s political participation is historically centred around their work with civil society. Um Saad is a teacher and activist – she started a civil society organisation called ‘Twenza’ in 2017. The organisation supports women facing hardship and economic exclusion.

Taking part in an organisational development workshop delivered by the Nalut SPP, encouraged Um Saad to run for local elections. She describes her journey into local politics:

“The support and guidance I received from the SPP allowed me to propose the idea of a women’s sewing factory through Twenza, and we were able to secure 30,000 Libyan Dollars from ACTED to implement the project. This success motivated me to continue supporting women’s economic empowerment in my town, which is why in 2020 I decided to run for the woman’s seat in the Nalut municipal elections. I didn’t care whether I won or lost, what was important for me was to try. The experience motivated me to continue to help other women establish their role in our society, not just on a family level but also in a public-facing role.”

Halima Yousef is another municipal council candidate. She is from the town of Gharifa in the Ubari municipality, in southwestern Libya. She served as a social worker for women and youth affairs in the political directorate for over 20 years. Halima has been passionate about volunteering for humanitarian work since she was a child.

She joined the Ubari Social Peace Partnership in 2019 after taking part in peacebuilding training sessions. Later, she became the SPP Public Relations and Partnership Director. Halima shares her story of political engagement:

“At the SPP, I learned so much about benefitting our society and widening the focus of my work. I’ve seen how women in Libya generally and in the South specifically have emerged as leaders in response to the changes and problems we were seeing in the country. Women are continuing to excel in all fields and pushing back against a conservative society who see women’s role as limited. But I also still see the suffering that women go through to provide for themselves and their families, and for this reason I decided to nominate myself for the elections. I see that my role as a woman in politics is to support those who are most vulnerable. I aspire to work not just in my city but to reach national ministries and even to rise globally.”

In Ubari, Halima’s goal is to provide human development training in 300 schools in the region, to support women displaced by conflict. She also plans to contribute to the continuity of a radio station that she helped set up through the Social Peace Partnership.

A dialogue session organized by Bani Walid SPP on challenges and obstacles faced by women and youth i
A dialogue session organized by Bani Walid SPP on challenges and obstacles faced by women and youth

One of the most difficult contexts within which to work on women’s political participation is in the town of Bani Walid. It is a conservative city where women’s roles are often limited to their social responsibilities within their families. The Bani Walid Social Peace Partnership did not have any women members when it started.

We worked with the SPP members and the city’s local government to build women’s participation. Acting as allies, male members of the SPP also helped advocate for women taking on leadership roles in the community. Today, of the 34 members of the SPP, 12 are women – this is a considerable achievement for Bani Walid. The inclusion of women is contributing to challenging the norms around women’s roles.

Recently, the Bani Walid SPP has taken the challenge to increase community participation in local elections. A key message of their campaign was to highlight the challenges women and youth face in participating in the political process. A representative of the Bani Walid SPP discussed the results of the project:

“The project was a huge success, with many women taking part in the dialogue sessions, especially women with political ambition. They discussed the importance of women’s meaningful participation in local politics to combat the symbolic position that women are often placed in, without any real role. As a result, four women nominated themselves in the elections, and the SPP is planning to support them to prepare their campaign plans. We will continue to make women’s role in our society more influential in the political process through our projects to support women in journalism, livelihoods training, and political participation.”

The future for Libyan women in politics

These three stories from Nalut, Ubari and Bani Walid are a few examples of the work SPPs are doing to support women’s meaningful political participation. Halima highlights that if women are to be meaningfully represented there is still much work to do: “we are still marginalized as women, and my hope is that my community will take my work more seriously and support it. Women in the South are maturing and enforcing their presence”. Um Saad shares her perspective: “women’s political participation is a form of true active citizenship, and a key part of the political transition. In the future, I expect Libyan women to be present in all forms of public life”.

Kosovo-Serbia: Addressing COVID-19 – allowing local voices to be heard

PCi works to amplify local voices, especially those of marginalised groups, in support of equitable development. We worked with our partners Aktiv, Civic Initiatives and Peer Educators Network to ensure non-majority communities in Serbia and Kosovo are better aware of – and able to advocate for – municipal services to which they are entitled.

In response to COVID-19, PCi worked with Aktiv to create a ‘Rapid Response Crisis Group’ (RRCG) to ensure that non-majority communities in Kosovo were receiving equitable access to information that sought to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In this first of the video stories which will be produced by all three partners, Aktiv sheds more light on the efforts of the RRCG to ensure equitable access to information. Click here for the film with English subtitles

Dear Journalists, Editors, Journalism Students and Writing Enthusiasts,

We are inviting you to write your story on a slice of life that depicts a reality, be that positive or a challenge, from the prism of multiethnicity in Kosovo and Serbia. The Media Award accepts applications until December 31st, 2022, which means there is three months’ time to research and write a story that shows how different nationalities coexist in Serbia or Kosovo.

For the year 2022, PCi has doubled the first prize in both categories (audio-visual and written format) to € 2,000 Euro and looks forward to receiving your entries.

Should you have a story that was written in the past, anytime during the period between 1st of January 2022 and the 31st of December 2022, you are eligible for the Media Award 2.

One of the main criteria for eligibility is that these stories must be written in Albanian or Serbian language and must have been published on or before 31st of December 2022 (earliest date of publication must be: 1st of January 2022).

For additional information about the Media Award criteria, please refer to the documents below. The Call for Application is available in English, Serbian and Albanian language.

Applications are received online through the Google Form link below: https://forms.gle/SHBtT7pVmm2unyZd8

Should you have any questions, please reach out to us via email at: media.award@peacefulchange.org.

Good luck!

The Peaceful Change initiative (PCi) Team

PCi’s partner NGO Aktiv advocating for Language Rights in Kosovo

As part of the ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development – ALVED’ project, PCi’s partner organisation Aktiv produced a video-cast that discusses language rights in Kosovo. The video-cast analyses how the pandemic crisis has shed light on weak institutions unable to provide a timely translation of information into Serbian at key moments, leaving members of the Serb and other non-majority communities in Kosovo at a disadvantage. The video is available in Serbian, Albanian and English language.

PCi’s partner on the Kosovo-Serbia project launches small grants scheme

PCi’s partner on the Kosovo-Serbia project, People in Need (PIN), has launched a small-grants scheme to support local-level, community-based initiatives that can help deal with the impact of Covid-19 on local communities, whilst cutting across ethnic divisions.

More than 100 applications were received, out of which 12 grassroot organizations were selected for support. They are:

  1. Centar za aktivizam Vranje (Center for Activism in Vranje) //Vranje & Bujanovac
  2. Centar za ravnomerni regionalni razvoj (Center for Equal Regional Development) – CenTriR & Ruža Lebane //Lebane
  3. Education Code & Ana Morava //Gjilan/Gnjilane & Lipjan/Lipljan
  4. Primo la toleranza //Štrpce/Shtërpcë
  5. Qendra e Kujdesit Ditor “PEMA” (Day Care Center “Pema”) //Gjilan/Gnjilane
  6. Qendra për jetë të pavarur (Center for Independent Living) //Peja/Peć
  7. Shoqata Beyond (Association Beyond) //Bujanovac
  8. Udruženje građanja Odbor za ljudska prava Vranje (Citizens’ Association Committee for Human Rights in Vranje) //Vranje & Bujanovac
  9. Udruženje Roditelja “Podrži me”, Sever (Association of Parents in the North “Support me”) //Leposavić/Leposaviq
  10. Udruženje Romkinja Bujanovac (Association of Roma Women in Bujanovac) //Bujanovac
  11. YMCA Movement – Peja branch //Peja/Peć
  12. Youth Association for Human Rights //Lipjan/Lipljan

Our partner PIN will be launching similar small-grant schemes in the future, offering more opportunities for support, especially to those who are in a more vulnerable position.

Libya: Suq Aljuma Social Peace Partnership supports accessible and inclusive education for children with disabilities

As conflict and displacement continue to affect communities in Libya, further exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, the most vulnerable groups increasingly struggle to access critical services.

Children with disabilities in Libya are often excluded from education, primarily because of the lack of support and resources available from state institutions, further reinforced by widespread social stigma around disabilities. Caring for children with disabilities at home becomes a heavy burden on families and especially women, who are usually responsible for household and care work.

The Suq Aljuma Social Peace Partnership supported the establishment of the Rashad Centre for Children with Special Needs and worked to collaborate with the Suq Aljuma Municipality, the Educational Control Office and Children’s Rights/Education activists to establish the first public education centre dedicated to children with disabilities.

A Suq Aljuma Social Peace Partnership member explained: “This project was based on an assessment of local needs in the municipality. The Local Education Office found that there were a high percentage of children with disabilities living in the area and they wanted to support these children as well.”

The community and local institutions came together and this cooperation led to the Educational Control Office providing some building space and staff. The Suq Aljuma Social Peace Partnership and the Suq Aljuma Municipality provided grants which led to the renovation of four classrooms and a Montessori learning room, equipped with furniture and other items. A curriculum was designed that included speech and occupational therapy. One of the Social Peace Partnership member’s said: “The parents are very happy. Many of them could not afford the cost of private schools and they are incredibly supportive of the Rashad Centre and the work that is being done here.”

The Head of the Rashad Centre highlighted that the children’s response to the training programme was very positive. The parents had also noticed the learning experience was benefitting their children and there was an improvement in their behaviour.

The Rashad Centre closed temporarily due to COVID-19, like other schools in Libya. However, the management is using this time productively and providing teachers with extra training so they are well prepared for when it reopens.  The Head of the Rashad Centre, explained:  “We cannot take any chances even if other schools reopen, as many of our students are immunocompromised. We have been trying to provide support and encouragement remotely, but some of the activities require the presence of our specialist teachers. Meanwhile, we are working with an expert in autism to help us design educational entertainment exercises that the parents can perform with the children at home. The school has become a lifeline for many families and its closure has really impacted them. We hope that we will be able to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Members of a Social Peace Partnership include senior representatives from the local authority and leaders from civil society, community/elders, business, individuals/groups responsible for providing security, local radio, social media influencers and local residents. One of the functions of a Social Peace Partnership is to engage with different community groups, helping to bolster relationships and strengthen the social fabric of the community. 

For more on Social Peace Partnerships in Libya click here