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Libyan Women Taking Action

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.

Ongoing research points to a key difference between male and female leadership: women are more willing to work collaboratively with others in effort to achieve a goal collectively, while men are more inclined to work alone in order to prove themselves capable among others.

Women play a vital role in decision making structures. A recent UK report on gender equality and the role of women in politics revealed that women parliamentarians are more likely than men to prioritize social issues such as child care, equal pay, parental leave and pensions, and issues such as reproductive rights, physical safety and violence against women and girls.

In recognition of the importance of increased women’s political participation, IRI’s works 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.

Make no mistake; the challenges that they face are significant. Women who have stood up and called for greater political rights and freedom have frequently been killed. Each and every day, women in Libya face prejudice by forces that are blatantly attempting to disenfranchise them.

Given the sensitive climate, I will be blurring some of the personal details of the four women’s lives over the course of this blog series. I 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 my pleasure to introduce them to you in their own words:

“My name is Zorghi and I'm 23 years old. I was born in Yefren, but now I live in Tripoli. I have graduated from Secondary school with a diploma, majoring in Economics and Business; I am also working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. I am the co-founder of TWM, an organization for women’s empowerment. TWM aims to encourage women to participate in politics and to emphasize the importance of women representation in Libya’s Municipal Councils.”

“My name is Citrine, named after a gemstone, although I may still be a bit rough...but I'm getting there!” I have a MSC in Environmental science and I'm also a life coach and human development trainer. I'm Libyan, but have lived in a number of places here and there; I currently live in eastern Libya, but spend time in all parts of the country.”

“My name is is Lamya. I am from Zuwarah, Libya. I'm 20 years old, and I'm dreaming for justice, freedom and peace. I like playing the piano and I also love reading and discovering the world.”

“My name is Nasreen and I work in the Ministry of Education. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and work with different organizations throughout Libya, such as Mercy Corps. I really like working with civil society and being involved in activities that benefit Libya.”

Now that they have introduced themselves, please allow me to outline the future of the blog.  We have asked these remarkable women to draft one blog per month.  The blog will be published in Arabic and English. Their blogs will reflect that month’s happenings, their current standing in the training process, and the ways in which they’ve been applying skills learned in the training.

Perhaps even more importantly, the blog will allow the women to talk about some of the larger issues confronting women’s political participation in Libya. All posts will be written in their own words and reflect their personal opinions.

These blogs will be published with some frequency on Democracy Speaks and each will be published on the group’s Facebook site, which can be found here.

The Facebook site will also allow the women to stay in touch with one another as they begin imparting skills to others throughout Libya.

I am excited to see how this works out and look forward to hearing what our bloggers have to say. Like all innovations, we ask that you afford us some wiggle room as we roll this out; I believe that the result will be worth your patience.