PCi supports women’s inclusion and empowerment in Libya through, leadership, participation, representation and visibility. We have captured the lessons we have learned from nearly 10 years of this work in our new report: “Integrating Gender into the Social Peace and Local Development Programme in Libya.” Key insights include:
Safely raising the visibility of women in peace leadership supports a shift in social perceptions towards women and their role
Inclusivity audits increase understanding of the quality of women’s participation, whilst working on male attitudes and behaviours has helped us to create a safer space for women to participate effectively
Pragmatic, culturally-relevant and context-specific arguments are essential in persuading men of the need for women’s involvement in community initiatives
The ‘Bader’ campaign was launched on Facebook on 17 February 2021, on the 10-year anniversary of the Libyan uprising. The campaign provided a platform for young leaders from different communities in Libya to talk about their experiences of promoting peace, social cohesion, and women’s inclusion. By amplifying the voices of young peace activists, Bader sought to inspire others to take action. Within a month of its launch, the Bader Facebook page had received 15,000 likes and over 500 stories had been submitted by young activists across Libya. Through the campaign, 3 young leaders were selected to receive grants of up to 20,000 LYD to implement their projects. The profiles of 19 of Bader’s most outstanding participants are outlined in this booklet.
The direct link to this flipbook is here and you can view as plain pdf here
After 7 years of civil war, Syrians on different sides of the conflict are deeply mistrustful of each other and can be afraid to meet. Peaceful Change initiative worked to bridge this trust gap by convening a group of 12 young people from politically diverse areas at a dialogue forum outside Beirut, Lebanon. It provided the opportunity to build bridges and share perspectives, whilst developing a genuine respect for ‘the other’. Trust and confidence was slowly built.
Nadia is a 27 year old graduate in Civil Engineering from Aleppo. She said: ‘The different realities I heard during the dialogue forum helped me to break down the stereotypes I had formed about people during the war because I lacked access to information. I listened to how it was for other young people to exist during the war and it has been helpful for me to know about their lives.’
The dialogue forum also provided an opportunity for the young people to learn about peacebuilding and concepts such as human rights, conflict and violence. The facilitators led a guided discussion on economic and social violence (visible and invisible) that need to be addressed in order to bring conflict to an end.
Khalid is a 19 year old student from Homs, the third largest city in Syria, who implemented civil society activities in his locality. He said: ‘It was helpful to learn about peacebuilding concepts as they underpin my work as a civil society activist. I want to empower myself and understand actions that respect human rights and non-violence.’
PCi supported by the Institute for Peace and Common Ground, trained 12 dialogue facilitators in 4 communities of Kherson region. A Dialogue Initiative Group was established in Beryslav where two community members and a representative from the local authority were trained as dialogue facilitators. The Dialogue Initiative Group sought to explore the ways in which dialogue could be more firmly embedded as a formal approach to resolving differences, as well as enabling and promoting more participatory decision-making.
In Beryslav, controversy had arisen from the Decommunisation Law that was passed by the Ukrainian Parliament in 2015, with some statues requiring removal, due to their connections with the Soviet past. Residents of Beryslav held different perspectives on Soviet history and there were varying attitudes towards the symbols. In June 2015, a monument to Lenin was destroyed by local activists, which increased tension and division in the community.
In order to reduce tensions around a remaining statue, the Beryslav Dialogue Initiative Group conducted a dialogue with individuals representing a range of opinions on: “How to improve a memorable place taking into account the current legislation of Ukraine and the different views of the city’s residents?” Common ground was found on the way forward with citizens representing different perspectives agreeing to work together on a project for the reconstruction of the remaining statue, that would fulfil the law of Ukraine but also take into account all historical periods of the city and opinions of its residents. The work of the Dialogue Initiative Group helped to improve understanding between the parties in the community and contributed to the removal of tension around the remaining statue, it also improved the interaction between groups with differing opinions in the city.
Muzykivka village is located in the Southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which borders the Crimean peninsula. When the government of Ukraine began to reform the system of territorial administration Muzykivka was an early adopter, uniting with four other villages to form a new amalgamated community in 2016. The reforms led to more decision making and budgetary power at the local level; this change required “creativity and responsibility” in the words of the community head.
The lack of power that local authorities had experienced in the past led to a situation where decision making was not responsive and this impacted services, but also resulted in a form of public disengagement whereby problems were not aired and discussed but rather remained pent up.
The Institute for Peace and Common Ground began working in Muzykivka in the summer of 2018, building up a Dialogue Initiative Group with facilitators trained to identify conflict issues, analyse them and design a process by which they could be addressed. People in the community also built the skills to engage people to take part in these dialogues: “All participants really like this approach”, said one of the trainees. “Some of them started to use dialogue principles in their work and everyday life. For example, a local government representative started to use the tools he acquired for communicating with people bound for military service and he has noted how relations have become better.”
Rabha is a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and an important role model for women in her community. With support from Peaceful Change initiative, Rabha implemented a successful women’s literacy project, teaching local women to read and write for the first time. The Department of Education decided to fully fund the school and to expand the initiative to neighbouring towns.
Tulmaitha is a quiet town situated along the east coast of Libya, often overlooked by development projects. It has suffered conflict, as well as political, economic and social upheaval. Rabha explains that the lack of opportunities for women in the town have led to their marginalisation and women struggle on many levels. She said: “I had the opportunity to finish my university studies at Benghazi University in Al-Marj and this has enriched my life but I always thought about those women who have not had the same opportunities.”
This women’s literacy project highlights that in a context where conservative social norms are an obstacle to women’s participation in decision-making processes and broader inclusion in public spheres, women’s meaningful participation is possible.
In towns and cities across Libya, the youth are extremely vulnerable as it is difficult for them to find meaningful employment, leaving them with a lot of free time. In Libya’s fragile and challenging context, this precarious situation can further fuel the flames of conflict, as the youth seek alternative opportunities, which can include joining a militia or becoming involved in criminal activities.
The Social Peace and Local Development grants support and encourage citizens and particularly youth, to be actively engaged and participate in their local community affairs. The grants are distributed through the Social Peace Partnerships in Libya, with support from Peaceful Change initiative. The grants have the potential to develop and mature, with some of the projects succeeding in independently securing funding and support.
Tulmaitha is a village situated in eastern Libya, over 100 kilometres east of Benghazi and forms a part of the Al Sahel Municipality, known for its beautiful and expansive beaches. An important part of Libyan culture is going to the beach to socialise with friends and swimming lessons are included in the school curriculum.
Prior to 2017, the Alsahel Municipality was unable to provide a life guard service, while sea rescue centres in the area were neglected. This created tensions, due to a large number of drowning incidents and children were particularly vulnerable because of strong undercurrents.
Hamad is 31 years old and born in Tulmaitha. He is a former combatant and after 2011 returned to his hometown but could not find work. When the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership opened up a Youth Grant opportunity in 2017, Hamad and his brother submitted a proposal to establish a volunteer Sea Rescue Centre. This was approved by the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership and Hamad was responsible for training 20 young people from the area to be life guards, as well as managing the use of a fully equipped boat, new diving suits and first aid equipment. During their first season between June and September 2017, the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre saved over 50 lives.
As a grant winner Hamad was invited to join the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership, he said: “Upon becoming a member of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership, I felt a sense of belonging to my community; being able to help people on a daily basis has made me a new person.”
The presence of the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre encouraged more people to visit the beach, as they felt safer – which was also good for local business. Over several months, the service provided by the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre became popular with residents and especially families, as well as the Municipality.
As the youth grant came to an end, Hamad and his team felt inspired and encouraged by their work. In late 2017, they produced a short video to raise more funds to ensure the volunteer Sea Rescue Centre was able to operate during the next beach season. In early 2018 the Alsahel Municipal Council officially accredited the Centre and listed it as an official partner, with the Municipality providing technical and financial support.
Official launch of volunteer Sea Rescue Centre with Municipal Council Representatives
Zahia Ali grew up in a small family where her father was an advocate for women’s inclusion; she was involved in family decision making and she developed a strong character. In 2011, following the outbreak of war, she set up a civil society organisation called ‘Why Me for Women’s Rights’ and increasingly became engaged in peacebuilding efforts, working alongside municipal councils, youth groups, women and even ex-soldiers and fighters.
Historically, Libyan society has relied on problem-solving processes that are led by different tribes, so many communities have limited experience of peacebuilding and community cohesion activities. Peaceful Change initiative is working to strengthen Libyan peace capital (over last six years) by investing in a national resource of 22 Trainer Mentors, 40 per cent are women. Trainer Mentors provide regular mentoring to the Social Peace Partnerships, as well as providing context-appropriate technical skills in conflict analysis, conflict sensitivity, mediation and negotiation, inclusive peacebuilding, gender sensitivity and transformational leadership.
Zahia benefitted from this peacebuilding training, she said: “I see myself as an Ambassador of Peace. The people we work with look to us for hope and to help them address the issues they face in their communities. For me, it is important that peace does not just become an empty slogan but that we convince people through the work we do.”
Zahia was able to use her newly acquired peacebuilding skills to apply for a United Nations Development Programme grant to train young people on conflict resolution and reconciliation, in the towns of Zintan, Mashashiya and Kikla. Conflict in Libya is often seen as a national issue but it has also sparked a number of smaller conflicts, rooted in decades-old grievances and tensions, leading to outbreaks of violence and displacement.
Zahia explains: “No person has been working with the people in these towns, I felt it was important to target them. While a peace deal was signed between all three towns, it was just ink on paper. I wanted to activate this deal in order to achieve results on the ground and see the people standing together, side by side.”
Zahia travelled to each town regularly and spent time with the people to build rapport and trust. She said: “I had to gain the trust of the youth by showing them that I was working for their interests and not my own. I did this by allowing them to get to know me and I was transparent with them. I learned about their vision for the future and what I could contribute to it. I was also alert to each context, and what works in each community”
Zahia managed to bring the youth from the three towns together for a peacebuilding conference. She said: “They all wanted the conference in their area but I felt that it would be best to conduct it in a neutral place to avoid tensions. For this reason, we held the conference in the town of Jadu.”
Inspired through her work with Peaceful Change initiative, Zahia expanded her women’s rights activism beyond the larger cities, to rural areas, where women are noticeably excluded from political life. Zahia said: “Libyan women are connected across the country by common things we share in our society. They are able to work in local communities and I want them to plant the seeds of change in every place they live, even if they are not around to see the seed grow.”
While the scale and impact of Zahia’s work is often not visible to the human eye, her dedication and commitment seeps into the heart of the communities where she works; Zahia is a catalyst for positive change.
Peaceful Change initiative works in support of UNSCR 1325 which promotes women’s equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security. Please click here for more
Peaceful Change initiative worked with an Armenian NGO, Youth Cooperation Centre of Dilijan (YCCD), to promote youth participation in decision making related to peace and governance issues. This supports UNSCR 2250, which urges governments to include youth participation in local, national, and international institutions, in efforts to end conflict.
15 young activists from Yerevan, Tavush, Shirak, Lori, Kotayk and Ararat regions participated in the six-day training held in Dilijan in August 2019. They were equipped with the skills to become ‘trainers’ and take their skills back into their communities, to work with other young people to engage them in peace and governance issues.
The training was structured around a Training Manual that had been developed with support from PCi. It sought to improve understanding, among the youth, of peace and peacebuilding in Armenia, and explained the basics of conflict transformation.
Arman, a 28-yearold civil society activist, said: “It was useful to know that peace is not just a general term and that it can be used in both a positive and negative way.” It also sought to develop communication skills that support non-violent dialogue and outlined approaches and tools that support the development of action plans for youth engagement in governance in Armenia.
Following the training, Marika, a 26-year-old teacher, said: “Now I am ready to go back to school and to work with the new materials, the Training Manual will be very helpful!”
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