Region: Libya

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

Rabha

Rabha

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

Libya: Mitigating the impact of violent conflict through the engagement and participation of youth in the provision of community services

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

Libya: How Zahia Ali is empowering women to promote peace

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

Zahia during a conflict resolution and reconciliation training with
youth from Zitan, Mashashiya and Kikla
Zahia during a conflict resolution and reconciliation training with
youth from Zitan, Mashashiya and Kikla

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

Libya: Nalut Social Peace Partnership supports migrant workers seeking to return home following COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has impacted the Libyan economy, exacerbating the negative effects of years of conflict and instability; it has also impacted vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, at risk of poverty and less resilient to economic shocks.

The first lockdown led to a number of non-essential businesses temporarily closing in March 2020, leaving migrant workers without a job and wanting to return home.  

A subsequent international travel ban affected the border town of Wazen, situated between Tunisia and Libya, where 70 Algerian and 150 Tunisian migrant workers became stuck. They were mostly daily wage workers and quickly ran out of money.

The migrant workers were living in abandoned buildings and sleeping outside. There was a lack of hygienic facilities and social distancing was challenging, increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. Wazen had limited medical facilities which led security officers at the border and local community networks to highlight their concerns.

Nalut Social Peace Partnership was already implementing a COVID-19 public awareness campaign, focused on encouraging people to stay at home to protect their health. When they heard about the migrant workers at the border, they wanted to work with the community to resolve the situation. They collaborated with the Head of the Displaced Persons Office in Nalut, the Red Crescent and the local branch of the Boy Scouts to source donations. The Nalut Municipality and the Libyan COVID-19 Response Committee also provided funding.

A volunteer explained: “The situation was very bad. We felt it was our responsibility to help because the migrant workers do not have any other form of social support, and with the ongoing pandemic we were worried that the virus would spread among them. We were able to provide humanitarian assistance until they could cross the border into Tunisia and continue their journey home.”

The Nalut Social Peace Partnership provided the migrant workers with masks, hand sanitiser, gloves, food and materials to build shelters. They also worked alongside the local health authority, who sent medical staff to disinfect the shelters and the crossing point facilities. They also provided training to migrant workers and security officers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the area.

One member of the Nalut Social Peace Partnership said: “Supporting the migrant workers felt like a logical step in our campaign, to protect everyone from COVID-19 by helping the most vulnerable. It was a significant project because of the coordination with both the local authorities and civil society. We also worked with the media office of the border crossing to ensure that information and updates were clearly shared.”

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

PCi supports young Libyan Peacebuilders

PCi organised a three-day youth forum in the coastal town of Zuwara, bringing together over 95 young activists, working on social peace and local development, from 27 towns and cities across east, west and south Libya in March 2020. Youth make up 65 per cent of the population and are disproportionately under-represented in both national and local government institutions.

One young woman from Almarj told her inspiring story about how she had established a centre for women’s literacy in Tulmaitha, with the support of the Alsahel Social Peace Partnership; thirty illiterate women who wanted to learn how to read and write have subsequently graduated. She said: “Sharing my story shows other young Libyans that nothing is impossible; I became really motivated to work for my society when I realised that I could achieve my goals.”

Another young man from Sabrata established five sport pitches and engaged both young women and men from the surrounding five towns to participate in the sports for peace initiative. He explained: “There are many young people who have great ideas but are afraid to implement them because there is so much pressure in society; I really hope that by sharing my success story today, I will encourage other youth to take that step forward.”

A young woman from Ubari explained how she had opened a paramedic training centre to ensure that all town residents were able access to health care. This achievement led to her involvement in the Ubari Social Peace Partnership where she worked to resolve local tensions in the community and subsequently established a women’s peacebuilding collective.

The youth forum highlighted the importance of ensuring the voice of youth is included when working to overcome local, regional and national conflicts and demonstrated the power of national youth solidarity.

Libya: PCi collaborates with municipalities to strengthen capacity and promote legitimacy and trust

The complex Libya context is characterised by escalating armed conflict, widening political polarisation, heightened inter-communal tensions and increased militarisation.

PCi developed a methodology which provides a systematic understanding of the range of capacities, responsibilities and functions within municipalities in east, west and south Libya in 2019. As a result, PCi produced 11 capacity assessments, working alongside municipal staff, that identified the strengths and weaknesses of these municipal administrations.

The subsequent dispersal of 22 grants (2 per municipality) sought to assist municipal staff strengthen specific areas, to promote a more cohesive and coordinated approach to municipal administration; as well as support municipalities to be more responsive to issues arising in their area. The methodology was supported by the Ministry of Local Government.

Municipal staff also convened consultations with civil society including representatives from the education and health sectors; this helped to improve understanding of the municipality’s work but also facilitated community participation in discussions on municipality priorities, contributing to improved legitimacy and trust.  The Abu Salim municipality identified the health sector as a priority.

The arrival of COVID-19 in Libya in March 2020, presented another significant challenge to all levels of government, to both manage the pandemic and maintain legitimacy and trust.  PCi’s Project Officer said: “When the first case of COVID-19 was identified in March 2020, Abu Salim Municipality staff carried out a rapid assessment that revealed a shortage in sterilisation supplies for hospitals and health clinics and used one of two PCi grants to buy over 30,000 litres of sterilisation materials. Subsequently volunteers were mobilised by the municipality’s Health Service Office to carry out bi-weekly sterilisation in health facilities, which provide services to thousands of people, reassuring citizens and supporting long-term stability in the area and demonstrating solidarity with all communities living in the municipality.”

Libya: Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership fosters improved coordination of local responses to COVID-19

There was a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the eastern town of Ajdabiya in September 2020; this led the Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership to interact and work even more closely with the municipal council, health authorities and security forces in support of an effective response.

The municipal council had put in place a strategy to mitigate the impact of COVID 19 which involved two teams; the first enforced a 14-day quarantine (for repatriated Libyan citizens) in line with international guidance and the second team operated two fully equipped make-shift isolation wards for COVID-19 patients in a local public school.  Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership members were involved in both teams but became aware of the  poor communication and patchy coordination and saw an opportunity to improve this situation and worked and supported the stakeholders to do this by collaborating closely with the local representative from the National Centre for Disease Control. As a result, the two teams merged into one, leading to a significant improvement in communication and coordination and this included the smooth transfer of operations to a new quarantine wing in a hospital.

Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership members have been involved in PCi’s Social Peace and Local Development programme, acquiring the skills to establish important relationships in the community, as well as promote a culture of collaboration amongst local actors. Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership members also reached out to the security forces who were struggling to enforce rules and maintain order in the town due to a lack of adequate crisis management training and a national pandemic strategy; they provided them with contactless thermometers, sanitisers and masks. The head of the Ajdabiya SPP explained: “We saw this as an entry point to reach out to them. Being able to provide some concrete support to their work really helped us build trust and improve the COVID-19 coordination in the city.”  

The Ajdabiya Social Peace Partnership worked in other ways, to build trust within the community and mitigate the impact of the pandemic by:

  • Collaborating with Ajdabiya local radio station to host a programme on COVID-19 which was so popular it is now a regular part of programming
  • Installing social distancing marking stickers in public buildings such as banks, clinics and pharmacies, as well as supplying masks to citizens. One Social Peace Partnership member said: “With support from PCi, we produced more than 3,000 medical masks, sourced a number of thermometers, and distributed them to key workers who are most exposed to contracting the virus, such as police, detention centre, and traffic patrol officers.”
  • Promoting reusable masks for economic and sustainability reasons, to help families with accessing face coverings; in addition, providing the sewing pattern to individuals with sewing skills to make them

Building on the results of these initiatives, the Social Peace Partnership continues to monitor the situation in the town to identify community needs and address them in cooperation with other local actors and to minimise the impact of COVID-19.

Libya: ‘Peacemakers Network – Libya’ hosts ‘Peacemakers Awards’ in Benghazi

PCi’s partner, the Libyan Peacebuilders Network, organised and hosted the ‘Peacemakers Awards’ in Benghazi on 8 February 2019. The event was planned to bring attention to the work being done by Libyans throughout the country to manage conflict in their communities and promote peace for Libya. The event recognised the work of a number of groups and individuals including the elders from the Tebu and Zawiya tribes in Kufra, elders of the western Mountain tribes, the Social Council of the Werfalla tribe and the elders of Cyrenaica. A special award was presented to Aisha Aizadma from Harawa for her role in addressing the conflict between the Al-Gedaddfa and Awlad Sulaiman tribes in Sebha.

Libya: Six Social Peace Partnerships support the COVID-19 response

During March 2020, Social Peace Partnerships (SPPs) in Libya engaged in the COVID-19 response. SPPs bring local community members together including representatives from the local municipality, civil society, community leaders and local residents. SPPs build skills to facilitate dialogue and community mediation, while simultaneously developing local action plans that identify the development needs and aspirations of local residents. SPP activities related to the COVID-19 response include:

Ajdabiya SPP developed plans to roll out a COVID-19 awareness campaign in urban areas.

Benghazi SPP set up an Emergency Response Committee to provide accurate COVID-19 information to Benghazi citizens and to support the municipality, as well as carrying out public awareness activities.

Souq al Juma SPP joined the Emergency Response Committee and participated in the National Centre for Disease Control training to raise awareness around COVID-19.

Tobruk SPP collaborated with civil society organisations such as the Red Crescent Society and the Boy Scout movement to implement COVID-19 public awareness activities.

Waddan SPP provided support to local awareness-raising efforts on COVID-19.

Zilten SPP joined the local Crisis Committee.