May 2014—In downtown Benghazi, a dark and deserted playground is now bustling with life. Fathers and mothers bring their children to play, laugh and enjoy a safe space in a city that has been wracked by violence and volatility since Libya’s revolution ended three years ago. With four schools in the surrounding area, teachers now bring their students to the park for physical education classes.
The park is part of an ongoing USAID-supported campaign to empower local activists to reclaim their community, revitalize their city, and spark positive change. The project was implemented by Ayadina, a women-led civil society organization that seeks to support and engage youth in Benghazi. As part of the activity, Ayadina also spearheaded a campaign to clean up Benghazi’s littered beachfront, raise awareness of the importance of environmental protection, and distribute information on the development of Libya’s new constitution.
In September 2013, Ayadina began preparing for a series of beach cleanup campaigns in the Al Qaryah, Al Seyahia, Sidi Khalifa and Al Sabri areas of Benghazi. The events attracted a lot of attention and participation from the wider Benghazi community. Eighty-six Boy Scouts participated, and local businesspeople donated 40 metal garbage bins that were placed along the shorefront. The campaign spread to the sea as four scuba divers joined with Ayadina and collected waste underwater.
The activity drew media attention too. Both Libya Al-Ahar TV and al-Rasmiya TV filmed and interviewed the organizers of the cleanup campaign. These and other media outlets subsequently reported on other Ayadina activities, which increased public awareness and participation in the campaign.
Ayadina uses these types of visible, practical community improvement projects as a platform to promote civic engagement in the political transition as well. During the cleanup campaigns, for example, flyers were handed out with basic information on constitutional principles and processes prior to the election of a Constitution Drafting Assembly that will write Libya’s first new constitution in 40 years.
Ayadina continues to be very active in its cleanup campaigns around Benghazi. The organization is building up a network of activists by teaming up with well-established groups such as the Benghazi Diving Center, the Service Marine Rescue Unit, the Libyan Society for the Protection of Marine Biology, Red Crescent and the Boys Scouts.
“We have received a lot of positive feedback from community residents," said Haneia Muftah Gamatti, chairperson of Ayadina. "I see the activity at the park and know that we have done something good that will contribute to improving Benghazi.”
Last updated: May 30, 2014