News Type: Stories of change

Advocating for women’s inclusion in higher education in Jakharra

SPP members in a meeting with Jaber Mayloud, the dean of the Oil and Gas Department at the faculty

Jakharra is a small town in eastern Libya where social and gender norms are rather restrictive towards the role of women in the public sphere. Since its inception in 2017, the Jakharra Social Peace Partnership is committed to expanding women’s inclusion both within the partnership itself and in the wider community, despite the challenging environment in which it operates. Because of its commitment to women’s inclusion, PCi selected the partnership to pilot a Gender and Security workshop in February 2023.

The aim of the Gender and Security workshop is to bridge the gap between men and women’s understandings of security. The workshop has a particular focus on encouraging men to reflect on how they can contribute to enhancing women’s security. A recent assessment, conducted by PCi, provided useful insights on the ways in which women and men’s notions and experiences of ‘security’ differ. The assessment also highlighted that men are often unaware of the range of security challenges faced by women daily.

Gender and Security workshop: understanding challenges around security

The workshop in Jakharra brought together a range of members from the Social Peace Partnership. They included local CSOs, the Municipal Women’s Empowerment Office (WEO) and the local Higher Education College and Faculty of Energy’s student union. Both women and men attended the workshop. First working as separate groups, then together, they exchanged on perceptions, experiences, and the challenges they face around security.

A key finding was that women in Jakharra face significant obstacles in accessing higher education opportunities. Most women in Jakharra do not pursue further studies after their high school degree. The closest university college considered as ‘appropriate’ or ‘suitable’ for women to attend is in the town of Jalu, 40km away. The geographic distance prevents most women from attending because they are not willing, or not allowed, to commute alone due to security risks and prevailing social norms.

SPP members during Security workshop in February 2023
SPP members during Security workshop in February 2023

To date, young women have not been able to enrol in the only higher education institution based in Jakharra, the Faculty of Energy. This is due to a combination of factors, including security risks as well as perceptions and concerns from female students and their families about attending a male-dominated and mixed environment. Also, engineering has not traditionally been a field in which women are encouraged to study or pursue a career.

Finding solutions to encourage women’s inclusion in higher education

Following the workshop, the partnership collaborated with the Faculty of Energy and the Municipality to facilitate a series of meetings to identify steps to take to encourage female enrolment. The SPP also met with department heads at the faculty, most welcomed the idea of women’s inclusion, because having more teachers and supported plans to expand the university. The partnership then proposed an initiative to enrol female students and convinced the dean to move forward with the project. They also engaged with parents of female students in Jakharra to advocate for their daughters’ higher education and address their concerns.

“We learned from the training that finding like-minded allies in the institution is an important step, as well as building a consensus by developing a case for the project that shows how every stakeholder – and how society as a whole – benefits from furthering women’s education.”

– Salheen Awam, Head of the Jakharra Social Peace Partnership

On 13 August 2023, the Faculty of Energy published a joint statement by its president, Abdulmalek Hamed, and the Jakharra Social Peace Partnership Head, Salheen Awam, announcing that female students could start the enrolment process by March 2024. The faculty is currently building and equipping new study halls dedicated to female students.

The importance of integrating gender in community-level peacebuilding

While still in its initial phase, this project makes clear the importance of integrating gender into community-level peacebuilding and of doing so in ways that are sensitive and responsive to the local context. The Jakharra partnership has successfully advocated for social change and for greater women’s inclusion in higher education. Collaborating with both men and women has also proven effective at shifting attitudes and turning the role of men from gatekeepers to allies.

PCi will continue to monitor this project, particularly after the start of the enrolment period in March 2024. We will also capture any learning that can help Social Peace Partnerships across Libya put in place similar initiatives.

SPP members in a meeting with Jaber Mayloud, the dean of the Oil and Gas Department at the faculty
SPP members in a meeting with Jaber Mayloud, the dean of the Oil and Gas Department at the faculty

These activities are part of the project ‘Social Peace and Local Development’, funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Integrating gender across all aspects of programming is a core focus of this project. In collaboration with Social Peace Partnerships, we implement a range of gender-focused initiatives. These include providing women with meaningful participation and leadership opportunities within SPP projects and collaborating with men as allies to create a safer environment for women’s inclusion and participation.

How Social Peace Partnerships responded to the Storm Daniel emergency 

SPP members volunteering for the Red Crescent, unloading aid trucks sent from west Libya.

In the aftermath of Storm Daniel, Social Peace Partnerships across Libya quickly mobilised to respond to the unprecedented emergency in eastern Libya.

Above: SPP members volunteering for the Red Crescent, unloading aid trucks sent from west Libya.

As the world grapples with the impact of the climate breakdown, countries with weak infrastructure, failed governance and limited climate change preparedness such as Libya are particularly vulnerable to its consequences. On September 10 2023, Storm Daniel – a rare tropical Mediterranean storm – hit eastern Libya. Cities across the region witnessed torrential rain and high-speed winds. Due to poor drainage and water management systems, heavy flooding led to substantial damage of infrastructure, particularly the destruction of the poorly maintained dams and irrigation systems.

The city of Derna bore the brunt of the damage and experienced the most disastrous consequences when two dams collapsed, causing devastating flooding downstream and wiping out entire neighbourhoods. At the time of writing this article, about 5,000 people were confirmed to have died, while around 10,000 were still missing and about 30,000 were displaced.     

While the response from both governments was slow, Libyan citizens and civil society organisations across the country immediately mobilised to provide emergency support and aid to communities in the affected areas. The eastern Regional Hub and many Social Peace Partnerships (SPPs) across the country responded promptly by collecting donations, sending aid, coordinating psychosocial support initiatives, resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs) within host communities, and reconnecting orphaned children with their extended families. This tragedy was deeply felt by Libyans as a moment of national unity and the spontaneous response from civil society and ordinary citizens provided a positive narrative of solidarity and reconciliation. 

Members of Nalut SPP loading trucks with aid to send to victims of the floods in Derna.
Above: Members of Nalut SPP loading trucks with aid to send to victims of the floods in Derna.

Social Peace Partnerships quickly responded to eastern Libya’s Storm Daniel emergency

The Derna SPP, located at the epicentre of the disaster, was one of the first SPPs to respond by contributing to efforts to recover bodies of victims, and facilitating access to areas that were inaccessible by clearing roads and access points. The SPP has also been working voluntarily with security forces and local organisations outside the city to coordinate access and facilitate the distribution of aid into Derna to those communities that are most vulnerable. This coordinated response highlights the value and utility of the SPPs, which work as crisis management and coordination mechanisms, providing support to vulnerable communities and mobilising responses in partnership with civil society organisations, relief agencies and government authorities.

The SPP in Sahel, another area impacted by the floods, also intervened in the aftermath of Storm Daniel. Abdulsalam Alsakta, a member of the Sahel SPP, recounted the challenge they faced: 

The municipality of Sahel stretches across 160km with 18 local communities located along the coast, which has made the response efforts particularly difficult. There have been 50 victims in our municipality and this number will rise. 260 families in Bayda have been displaced due to the damage to their homes from the floods, and another 42 homes in Hamama were completely destroyed. From day one, the SPP created an emergency room and have been working across Al-Sahel to address emerging health issues and provide support to the displaced, but the situation is dire and our resources are limited.

The SPPs in cities surrounding Derna also rushed to help, both through the delivery of aid and through the provision of logistical support to displaced families. The initiatives delivered by SPPs across the region, which saw them mobilise their own members and networks to provide relief support to those affected by storm Daniel, highlight the ability and confidence of the SPPs to work beyond their Municipality borders and cooperate regionally with other SPPs and partners.  

Strom Daniel response shows Social Peace Partnerships play a crucial role at community and regional levels

The countrywide response to the flooding due to Storm Daniel is a testament to the crucial role that Social Peace partnerships play, underlining the ability of the SPPs to overcome geographical and political divisions and resource constraints in order to help those most in need. The existing infrastructure of the SPPs, their substantial experience in crisis management, their networks and relationships with governmental and non-government institutions, and their ongoing efforts to create partnerships regionally and nationally have contributed to a lifesaving, coordinated response.

From the interventions implemented by the SPPs, it is important to highlight that the SPPs mobilised support independently of Peaceful Change initiative, which is a testament to their growing confidence and autonomy as critical peacebuilding, crisis management and governance support structures that can sustain and resource their work with limited international input, delivering initiatives that have made tangible contributions to relief efforts. 

SPP members volunteering for the Red Crescent, by the sea in Derna looking for bodies of civilians that were swiped by Storm Daniel.
Above: SPP members volunteering for the Red Crescent, by the sea in Derna looking for bodies of civilians that were swiped.

Integrating climate security analysis into Social Peace Partnership initiatives

In Libya, the impact of climate change is heightened by the absence of a unified government and by fragile state institutions, which translate into a lack of accountability to implement climate adaptation measures; climate pressures also act as an accelerator of conflict, fuelling community tensions and more competition over natural resources. For this reason, we are working to integrate climate security analysis into our programming, with a particular focus on how climate security interacts with gender, peace and conflict dynamics.

We are exploring how SPPs can better integrate climate security analysis into the design of their social peace initiatives across Libya. We believe SPPs can play an instrumental role in sensitising local communities on the risks and threats of climate change, and want to support them to advocate for improving climate change preparedness, including by championing a greater role for women, young people, and marginalised communities in decision making on resource management and climate adaptation.

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”.

PCi Celebrates International Women’s Day 2022: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”

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

Founding member of the Tripoli Centre Social Peace Partnership becomes first woman in Libya to hold the position of Mukhtar al-Mahalla (Head of Locality)

Sumaya Abushagour, a civil society activist and founding member of the Tripoli Centre Social Peace Partnership (established in 2017) became passionate about working with marginalised groups (such as women, youth and people living with disability), when employed by the Ministry of Education and the Tripoli Centre Municipality, Social Affairs Unit. As a member of the Tripoli Centre Social Peace Partnership, Sumaya further developed her valuable network of contacts – and benefitted from the mentoring and skills training provided in Social Peace and Local Development (with support from PCi) that added to her experience and encouraged her to continue to support women, youth and people living with disability in the community. She was recently appointed to the position of Mukhtar al Mahalla (Head of Locality) in the Omar al-Mukhtar neighbourhood within Tripoli Centre; she is the first woman in Libya to be appointed to this position.

Through the Tripoli Centre Social Peace Partnership, Sumaya works to raise awareness in the community, to shift social perceptions about women’s abilities and contributions in society. In Libya, social norms and perceptions around gender roles are a key barrier to women’s empowerment and women are often excluded from livelihood and economic regeneration projects. Specifically, Sumaya arranged vocational trainings in sewing, cooking, and nursing for over sixty women across Tripoli; she also mentored young women who aspire to leadership positions in the community. An inspirational role model, Sumaya said: “Through the Social Peace Partnership, I have spoken to many young women in Tripoli who expressed their dream of being appointed to a leadership position – but they don’t know how to go about this and are often very afraid of how society will perceive them.”

Sumaya Abushagor presenting to participants during a
workshop with the Tripoli Centre Social Peace Partnership

Abdul Salam Ben Saoud, is the Tripoli Social Peace Partnership coordinator, working closely with the Municipal Council. He says that Sumaya has the vision and skills to be appointed Mukhtar al Mahalla (Head of Locality), noting her track record in delivering vocational training to women – and the production of a plan to repair and revive one of Tripoli’s busiest commercial streets damaged by the conflict.

Sumaya is currently working to deliver vocational trainings for women and youth, involving a collaboration between the Tripoli Centre Social Peace Partnership and the Omar al-Mukhtar neighbourhood. Sumaya said: “Youth unemployment and the financial dependence of women on men are two main challenges faced by our community. It is important that we give youth and women the space to find their talents and be able to earn an income, use their time wisely, and be good role models for future generations, as we work on breaking stereotypes and building a peaceful and prosperous Libya with equal chances for all! We are also working on activities for people with disabilities, as they too have a crucial role in our society and deserve to be represented.”

Sumaya is also working with the local Municipality to identify community priorities. There is an urgent need to repair the power station that provides electricity to her neighbourhood, recently damaged by heavy rain and flooding. She has sent her report to the Ministry of Electricity and the Tripoli Municipal Council, with whom she has good working relationships. The Mayor of Tripoli Centre, Ibrahim Al-Khalifi (interviewed by Alhadath TV1), recently commented on Sumaya’s appointment to Head of Locality: “Sumaya is hardworking, competent and an educated woman who meets the requirements for Head of Locality; she also obtained one of the highest grades in the relevant exam.”

For more on the Libya Social Peace and Local Development (SPLD) programme, click here.


In Libya, PCi supports women’s inclusion through four pillars:


  • Provide space and opportunities for women to strengthen and practice leadership skills
  • Fund and support women-led initiatives
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing, peer support and mentoring of young women


  • Ensure women feel confident and safe to speak freely and participate meaningfully
  • Work with men to behave as allies and advocate for women’s inclusion
  • Ensure women’s interests and needs are considered in decision making


  • Ensure at least 30 per cent female membership in Social Peace Partnerships and gender-balanced participation across programme activities
  • Include representatives of women’s diverse social groups
  • Support female representatives through training and coaching


  • Support communication strategies and media campaigns that amplify the voices of women leaders
  • Facilitate networking among women leaders in different regions and sectors
  • Support role models with diverse social backgrounds

Championing the voices of Libya’s youth peace leaders

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

Supporting national trust building amongst Syrian youth

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.’

Ukraine: Local tensions addressed by Dialogue Initiative Group in Beryslav

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.

Using a Dialogue Initiative Group to build trust in Muzykivka village, Ukraine

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’s Journey: from vocational trainee to champion of women’s inclusion



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.

For more on Rabha’s story, click here