Since 2013, Peaceful Change initiative has been supporting community-level peacebuilding initiatives in more than 40 Libyan municipalities. This report captures our experience and lessons learned from nearly 10 years of integrating gender into our programme. Key lessons include:
Using a gender lens to analyse conflict was key to increasing community understanding of why women’s agency in local peace and conflict should not be underestimated
Understanding interests and needs of diverse groups of women helped to offer relevant incentives for them to engage in local peacebuilding activities
Working with men on their attitudes and behaviours and identifying ‘male allies’ helped to create a safer space for women to participate
Funding and opportunities for women to strengthen their leadership skills and implement their own initiatives represented an important tool to deepen women’s participation
Safely raising the visibility of women peace leaders helped shift social perceptions towards women and their role in peace and decision making
PCi and Chatham House co-hosted the webinar: ‘Societal Impact of the Conflict Economy in Libya’ on 29 March 2022.
The webinar launched PCi’s new report, ‘Unpacking the Impact of Conflict Economy Dynamics on Six Libyan Municipalities’ that fills an important gap in our understanding of conflict dynamics in Libya, arguing that political elites and armed groups cannot be assessed in a vacuum, without exploration of the socio-economic context of the communities that they claim to represent. The research takes a localised approach, exploring factors that influence local conflict economy dynamics, which vary from area to area. It is also a human centred approach, viewing Libyans as participants in the local conflict economy – both willing and unwilling – rather than only as passive victims of the conflict-affected environment in which they live.
The report concludes that reducing the societal impact of Libya’s conflict economy cannot rely solely on high level elite bargains – and a top-down approach to security sector reform. National level conflict dynamics and local instability are linked and this must be tackled via a twin track approach whereby local interventions are supported by the implementation of national-level reforms that address structural issues. In addition, in support of local social cohesion, the paper recommends the establishment of economic-social peace partnerships that promote pro-peace business activities across conflict divides. It also recommends conflict sensitive livelihood and peacebuilding interventions that minimise the risk of assistance worsening conflict dynamics, and that maximise opportunities to contribute to sustainable peace.
Emad Badi, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Advisor at DCAF and Senior Analyst at Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime
Virginie Collombier, Part-time Professor, Scientific Coordinator chez Middle East Directions Programme, European University Institute
Tim Eaton, Senior Research Fellow in the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House and XCEPT Research Lead for the Libya, East and West Africa Case Study
Fleur Auzimour Just, Chief Executive Officer of the Peaceful Change initiative
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
Livelihood training courses to support vocational and professional skills
Job fairs bringing together local businesses, employers, trainees, and other relevant authorities
Targeted grants to support local entrepreneurs willing to develop or expand their business ideas
The background to the project was a Peaceful Change initiative Assessment, carried out in late 2020, that explored the impact of conflict, displacement and the pandemic – and found that economic recovery and specifically livelihoods, have been increasingly threatened due to economic and political instability. The Assessment highlighted that young men are more incentivised to join a militia and/or radicalisation, as well as get involved in illicit activities, such as trafficking and smuggling, with limited livelihood opportunities. In addition, that conflict and the pandemic had increased the risk of women becoming marginalised – and increased some women’s exposure to higher levels of gender-based violence.
Peaceful Change initiative also conducted a Research Project in 2021, to better understand the impact of the conflict economy, highlighting that while local communities cannot fully insulate themselves from national dynamics, the impact of the local conflict economy can be mitigated through strengthening local cohesion and stability and developing local economic opportunities.
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.”
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
The Peacemakers Network, a group of individuals from Libyan civil society, local government, media and academia, who work to find solutions to promote sustainable peace (supported by PCi) worked on a video campaign at the end of 2021, to improve public awareness of electoral process in Libya. Elections were scheduled for the 24 December 2021 but have been postponed.
The Peacemakers Network distributed four videos across a broad range of Libyan media and social media and a fifth video will be released shortly focusing on the process of candidate selection. Click on the links below to view the videos:
The Peacemakers Network, a group of individuals from Libyan civil society, local government, media and academia, who work to find solutions to promote sustainable peace (supported by PCi) have collaborated with The Agency For Peacebuilding (www.peaceagency.org) and produced an article commenting on Libya’s postponed elections, that were scheduled for December 24 2021. This was published by Huffington Post Italia on December 24, 2021 which can be read in Italian here.
Click here to read an edited English version of the article on the Agency For Peacebuilding website; an extract is outlined below:
“Members of the Peacemakers Network truly believe that holding an election is the only way to save Libya, get it out of its current crisis, and put an end to the state of division. And they are not the only ones. The elections will pull the rug out from under all parallel bodies created since 2011, as well as those who want to impose their views and control the country, including the many actors are standing in the way of realizing the Libyan people’s aspirations and desire to build a civic and democratic state.
There are, indeed, high expectations for the anticipated elections, which many Libyans see as a historic and pivotal event that shall end the conflict, and it would be a mistake to think that these expectations can simply be ignored. Past and recent events have, in fact, left the country’s three historic regions and various ethnic groups (Arabs, Tebu, Amazigh, and Tuareg) dissatisfied with the current situation. Each group is a volcano on the verge of erupting as a result of what it perceives as marginalization and an attempt to control its rights.
Elections are therefore important to stability and peace, and in order for them to be rescheduled shortly, Libyan actors and the international community must commit to and support its results and endorse what the Libyan people vote for in the ballots boxes.”
Ikram Mohamed Abdullah is the Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership Public Relations Officer; she is a dynamic young woman who graduated from Ajdabiya University with a background in business and IT. She was invited to join the Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership by the Head of the Partnership, who was impressed with her work in the community. The skills she has acquired through membership of the Social Peace Partnership have helped her both in conducting social peace initiatives and in her professional life.
Through the Social Peace Partnership, Ikram attended trainings on conflict analysis and conflict mitigation, strengthening her peacebuilding knowledge. She also participated in project management training, acquiring new skills in strategic planning and specifically SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) which have helped her to fundraise for her University. Ikram said:
“Ajdabiya University relied on the national government for funding (because it is a public institution) but unfortunately funding was cut because of the political crisis; this occurred at a time when student exams were about to start. When I met with people from the University, we discussed how we might use SWOT analysis to advocate for more funds and using this tool, we were able to mobilise networks, which resulted in private companies donating resources so that the exams went ahead.”
Ikram is proud of the social peace initiative to renovate the Ajdabiya General Hospital. The Social Peace Partnership produced a list of eight potential projects, that were announced on local radio. Residents were asked to vote for their favourite project with 80 per cent going towards the hospital renovations (involving 10 bathrooms, the construction of a separate entrance for Accident and Emergency and the construction of a women’s area to improve safety and privacy). The project was completed to a high standard, in three weeks, with over thirty volunteers helping out on specific tasks, including painting and plumbing – and within the budget of 40,000 LYD.
Ikram has also played a key role in the Social Peace Partnership efforts to strengthen livelihood opportunities for the most vulnerable community members in Ajdabiya. To date, over 200 people, including many women and youth, have been provided with vocational skills. Ikram continues:
“Our sewing training project stands out to me, supporting women to earn an income. Selma, was a widow with five children who was struggling to make ends meet. She got a job as a cleaner with the Social Peace Partnership because her widow’s pension no longer covered her basic costs (due to inflation) and she fell into depression. Selma was invited to participate in the sewing workshop. She was very motivated and soon became the top student in the class. We gave her a sewing machine to take home so that she could start producing garments. She now works with a number of stores and supplies them with tailored pieces; she is slowly lifting herself and her family out of economic hardship.”
Ikram’s work with the Social Peace Partnership and civil society more broadly has made her even more determined to pursue ambitious projects.
“I want to make an impact and feel that I have achieved something important in my community. My work within the Social Peace Partnership has shown me that these projects matter to our society.”
She is particularly committed to continuing to support women in her community, so that they can play a more meaningful role and develop their potential.
“While women still face discrimination in our society, I believe that there is no obstacle too large that can prevent them from achieving their goals. We have the opportunity to take on positions as policymakers, to create real change.”
In February 2021, a national campaign was launched to raise the profile of young peace leaders through the ‘Bader’ social media Facebook campaign (‘Bader’ means ‘initiate’ in Arabic).
The campaign gathered and disseminated stories of youth leadership in peacebuilding and civil society projects – and called on young Libyans to submit their ideas for projects that promoted social peace, community cohesion, gender equality and social inclusion. The campaign received over 15,000 likes from people spanning over 30 cities in Libya; this popularity led to over 500 story submissions in the space of one month.
Salem Ibrahim was one of three prize-winners. He is a civil society activist from Benghazi who works at the Civil Society Commission. He is committed to supporting young people to start up and manage their own organisations, creating civil society support networks. He recently launched an online platform called ‘Impact’, which helps people launch their own community projects. Salem also focuses on supporting civil society actors to advocate amongst government decision-makers and raise awareness about the importance of a legal framework to protect civil society in the country.
Salem’s aspiration was to organise a series of training sessions that sensitise Libyan decision-makers/politicians about challenges/obstacles that civil society in Libya faces, including restrictions on their activity. The training sessions would include information on international principles of civil society protection, the role of civil society in dialogue and national reconciliation, and the value of establishing and managing peace-building networks.
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 thousand 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. One of these young leaders is Mona.
Mona is a 29-year-old media activist from Sebha with a degree in Radio and Television Media. She has launched an online radio station called ‘Voice of Peace’ to promote social cohesion in the south of Libya. The radio station broadcasts in the three languages spoken by Sebha’s different community groups, Arabic, Tebu and Targi, to promote inclusion and mutual understanding. The radio station will host young people from these community groups to spread positive messages of peaceful coexistence. Mona was fundraising to purchase the necessary transmission and studio equipment that will allow her team to develop the project and move from internet to radio broadcasting, so that they can reach more people in Sebha and the Fezzan region.