In March 2013, the unthinkable happened in Benghazi—a group of female leaders from six cities gathered to talk about women’s involvement in drafting the new constitution, ending violence and discrimination against women, and conducting grassroots advocacy campaigns to protect women’s rights. As the people strive to build a democratic future, a new voice is being heard—the voice of Libyan women.
USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), is supporting activities that enable Libyan women to speak up, participate in decision making, and create positive change in their country.
The Tiwatriwin Association and USAID have joined forces to establish an Internet center and provide computer training for women in Yefren, an isolated area of marginalized communities. The center provides women with a safe space to access information, connect with people, and communicate about issues central to their lives. Here, women learn to conduct political campaigns and dialogues to support female participation in the development of Libya’s new constitution.
Women are also playing a critical role as catalysts for peace and reconciliation. Phoenix Libya, a USAID-supported organization founded by five women who met in Tunisia as refugees during the revolution in 2011, marched through two eastern cities in January 2013, canvassing the streets with posters calling for militias to disarm and reintegrate back into their communities.
USAID also provided computer and advocacy skills training at the female-led Mafqood Center, which offers social and legal services to families of people who disappeared during the revolution. The center is the vision of a dynamic Libyan woman, Mervat Mhani, who ensures that many of the trainees are women.
“The Mafqood Center is a place where there is no difference between Libyans. We are all the same here, man or woman, no matter what,” said one woman* who participated in advocacy skills training at the center.
Faced with numerous challenges during this critical period, Libyan women are using their newfound voices to protect their interests and promote their rights. In support, USAID is partnering with prominent women’s rights activist Nissa Qadimat to strengthen a national movement to mobilize women in the transitional process.
While much work remains, women’s voices are clearly at the forefront of efforts to create a new, democratic Libya.
*Name withheld for security reasons.
Last updated: October 17, 2013