In countries across the globe, women are often disproportionately excluded from the political process. In an effort to combat this political trend, this year with support from the Middle East Partnership Initiative, IRI launched a program to increase women’s political participation in Libya.
Our program is designed to enhance citizen awareness of women’s role in Libya’s political life and to help women develop the skills they need to have an equal footing with men when running for office. The women we work with receive mentoring and training on how to not only lead but how to better serve citizens and create an effective government.
Throughout the year we will be following the stories of four Libyan women, as they participate more actively in Libyan political life. We hope that this yearlong blog series will help you, the reader, better understand the challenges that Libyan women face on a daily basis, and provide insight into the ways that IRI’s programming is equipping them with the tools they need to create a stable environment.
Given the sensitive climate, we will be blurring some of the personal details of the four women’s lives over the course of this blog series. We can, however, say that they represent the broad spectrum of Libya, coming from the west, center, east and south of the country. In addition, they represent different political beliefs and ethnic groups.
It is our pleasure to introduce them to you in their own words:
My official journey with IRI began on February 5, 2017 where I participated in a five-day workshop in Tunis, Tunisia. During this amazing experience I met several inspiring women from various backgrounds and cities throughout Libya. This training focused on empowering women and increasing their political participation in Libya.
There were three people who really made an impact during my time in Tunis and whom I will never forget – our two American volunteer trainers, Leslie Waters, Bettina Rodriquez, and IRI trainer Mr. Hicham Zoughah. These three people made a drastic impact on my life and changed my perspective on things I never thought were possible. I have the upmost respect and admiration for them.
Being the youngest participant in the group, I was particularly excited to network with the other ladies throughout the trip. We laughed, cried, and most importantly we gained the knowledge and hope necessary to succeed in representing how we want to rebuild our country that was destroyed by violence and ignorance.
When we arrived back home, we had a long road of hard work ahead of us, but we were excited to get started. Each of us began planning for upcoming trainings, where I personally developed a “demo-training” with the help of the local Libyan NGO that I am an active member of, At Waylol Movement.
During this training, I presented a brief on campaigning and the role of women in society, and how to utilize women’s rights to engage on these important matters. After finishing the demo training I was invited by the radio station “Casas” to speak on the purpose of my training, how I got started, and my targeted groups.
During this time, I was also planning for my upcoming training that targeted 20 female activists from the Zuwara Municipality.
Upon returning home, the news of the trainings had spread throughout my city, and I started working hard to prepare for my upcoming training. I worked relentlessly to select the best women that would benefit from the training.
I also wanted to include women who were powerful leaders and role models in their community, including those with disabilities. After communicating with them and gathering the information I needed, I began the search for the perfect location for the training and tying up other lose ends.
The training successfully took place on March 12, 2017 and was one of the hardest challenges of my life. Being only 20 years old, conducting a training for these strong and powerful women made me extremely nervous. However, after the first day of the training, I started to regain my strength and was looking forward to the days ahead.
The next days of the training continued to run smoothly and I was extremely proud. I made sure the information I was presenting was well received and that I was able to fully express all the support my city needs.
During the training we had a visit from a female Municipal Council Member who encouraged and supported the women and me on all the good work that we’re doing. The event was covered by local TV channels and newspapers and was a well received.
This training would not have been as great of a success without my colleagues at “At Waylol Movement.” I had the best days of life working with these women and we made a promise to ourselves as a group that we will work on nominating two women in the next elections and support them by managing their campaigns together.
We will continue to communicate and post on Facebook to share news and upcoming plans. These women really were flowers of Zuwara. Although I expected some obstacles, the training received a lot of praise in my community and I will continue to work hard to achieve the change we want for Libya.
Although I am so young, what I achieved was bigger than me. My message is that women are capable, strong, and have something great to offer to society and Libya. This is only the beginning of my journey and I will work with these women to make a better Libya.