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Libyan Women Break the Silence

The deliberate exclusion of women from civic and public spaces in Libya has led to a significant lack of narrative and input from grassroots women. This results in an incomplete analysis of both the root causes of the conflicts and the peace and security concerns.

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WILPF International Secretariat
10 October 2018

“Even if women are not part of the fights in Libya, we should be part of the solution,” was the clear message from WILPF’s partners Dr Rida Al-Tubuly and Aisha Al-Tubuly during the side event ‘You are missing the full picture,’ which took place on 25 September 2018.

The joint side event gathered diplomats, activists and NGO representatives at the Human Rights Council to listen to first-hand accounts from Libyan women activists, who highlighted how their recommendations far too often are missing from the discussions on getting peace in the country.

The deliberate exclusion of women from civic and public spaces in Libya has led to a significant lack of narrative and input from grassroots women. This results in an incomplete analysis of both the root causes of the conflicts and the peace and security concerns.

Lack of Support Prevents Peace Efforts

Dr Rida Al-Tubuly, President, and Aisha Al-Tubuly, Co-Leader Coordinator, of Together We Build It (In Arabic: منظمة معاً نبنيها), had travelled to Geneva to speak about the challenges Libyan women face working for peace while trying to juggle patriarchal restriction and conflict-related issues in their country. Their presentation drew attention to the gap between the support provided by the international community to women activists to become influential peace actors, and the lack of real opportunities provided to them to utilise these capacities in formal peace initiatives.

“During the past seven years, the international community – UNSMIL and UN member states – has been the main leading actor for the political and peace building process in Libya. However, all the important high level meetings initiated, mediated and facilitated by the UNSMIL or member states barely has included women,” said Dr Rida Al-Tubuly.

Drawing on their own experience, Dr Rida Al-Tubuly and Aisha Al-Tubuly illustrated how women in Libya today face numerous challenges, ranging from cultural norms and gendered stereotypes to restriction of movement, and from ideological and religious challenges to serious security issues.

Since 2011, Libyan women activists have been working on initiatives to promote and support peace and security on the ground and have led a number of disarmament and peace initiatives. However, the scope of their actions to meaningfully influence the peace process in their country is still limited. Libyan women have been widely excluded from the political arena despite international stakeholders having repeatedly emphasised the importance of their participation.

On this aspect, Dr Rida Al-Tubuly said that “the international community showed a very gender-blind approach to the right of Libyan women to meaningfully participating in peace process,” emphasising that this has negatively impacted women on the ground. As a result, the lack of political will of the international community “sends an explicit message to Libyan decision-makers that women’s participation in decision making and peace process is not necessary and not important.”

Campaign Release: You are Missing the Full Picture

In order to raise awareness about the exclusion of Libyan women from the political arena, Together We Build It launched their new campaign during the side event. The campaign is called ‘You are missing the full picture.’

The campaign illustrates a number of meetings concerning Libya’s future from which women were excluded. One examples of such a meeting is the International Conference on Libya that took place in Paris on 29 May 2018. As illustrated in pictures from news outlets not a single Libyan woman was invited to participate. Another recent example is when the UN mission to Libya mediated a meeting in Libya to agree on a ceasefire in the light of the horrific events in Tripoli, and yet, once again not a single woman was present.

Beyond Social Factors

During the Q&A session, the two Libyan delegates engaged with the audience by replying to a number of questions, including one from a Libyan civil society organisation representative asking whether the exclusion of women could be due to social factors.

Dr. Rida Al-Tubuly replied that the issue is not about society being against women in politics, because “in 2012 we had elections and there were women, putting their photos on posters in the streets together with fathers, brothers and sons supporting them.” She explained that the issue is rather related to the fact that “when the Libyan society is run by a stable government women’s participation is made possible, but this condition is not in place in Libya, especially since militias are fighting in Tripoli.”

To highlight this issue Dr. Rida Al-Tubuly described her trip from Tripoli to Geneva, demonstrating how difficult even participating in this side event in Geneva had been. As the airport in Tripoli was closed, she had been forced to drive for three hours at night to Misrata, leaving her home at 4:30 a.m. She had to pass multiple checkpoints without knowing what would meet her. “I was risking the lives of my husband and son, who had to go with me as guards in the taxi. We did not know what dangers we could find along the road. This is not a normal situation.”

Context

The side event followed a written submission presented to the HRC39 and an oral submission read out by Dr Rida Al-Tubuly.

Dr. Rida Al-Tubuly and Aisha Al-Tubuly will continue campaigning for the inclusion of Libyan women in the peace process. Read more about their campaign on the website of Together We Build It.

You can also read more about WILPF’s partnership with WILPF and our upcoming activities on the project page: Towards a Lasting Peace in Libya.

The side event was hosted by WILPF in partnership with Together We Build It and co-sponsored by The Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations and UN Women.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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