From 2013-2015, our programme in Libya focused on capacity building opportunities for women’s rights organizations emerging in the post-Gaddafi period.
During this period, we hosted three workshops for Libyan women’s rights advocates providing training on: international instruments supporting women’s human rights and gender justice; advocacy skills; and SGBV documentation. This series of workshops, held in Cairo, assisted in creating a local network of support amongst Libyan organizations who until then had not had opportunities to meet within the country.
Our overall collaborative programme with local partners prioritised three key strategies:
- capacity building and training;
- SGBV documentation programme to advocate for domestic accountability for these crimes and the creation of medical and support services for victim survivors; and
- advocacy with decision-makers for the inclusion of internationally-recognized women’s rights within the new Libya legal framework and constitution.
One of the outcomes of the capacity building workshops was the subsequent advocacy undertaken by Libyan partners in 2014 regarding a quota for women on the Government’s Committee mandated to draft the Libyan Constitution. Although not ultimately elected, two local partners stood for election for the Committee, stating that as a result of their participation in our workshops, they felt they had the professional and personal confidence and skills to participate in the political process. Going forward, we will be seeking ways to engage government ministries in gender justice issues and support local partners to develop a dialogue with key ministries.
In 2013-2014, WI partners conducted ten conflict-related SGBV documentation missions interviewing 54 victim survivors in three cities. Due to access and safety issues, partners held a limited number of advocacy meetings with Government Ministers although they were able to meet with the Minister of Justice regarding the gaps in medical and trauma-related services for victim survivors of SGBVs. Following the initial documentation missions, partners utilized the documentation data to advocate for the establishment of ‘houses’ for victim survivors of sexual violence (both domestic and conflict-related) to receive rape-related medical treatment, safe from family and community harassment and social stigma.
One requisite for tackling gender-based violence in Libya, and the first step to justice and reconciliation, is creating a public discourse on these issues. Women’s rights organisations in Libya have advocated for decision-makers to acknowledge the commission of sexual violence during the civil conflict as this continues to be publicly denied by government officials and the Police. Our partners have identified such acknowledgement and a public discourse on these issues as essential for victims/survivors to be able access justice procedures and medical services. To date, there has been little public acknowledgement especially of sexual violence committed by the rebel forces who still control many areas and/or are now in the government.
Suspension of Programmes due to insecurity
Along with many organisations, in 2015, we had to suspend our programmes in Libya due to chronic insecurity and heightened threats to women’s and human rights defenders. Abductions of political figures and their family members as well as the assassination of two women’s rights advocates in 2014 exemplified the high level of violence. Recent surveys confirm that women’s rights advocates have been specifically targeted in Libya along with CSOs who engage or employ women. Specifically the security situation impeded communication with partners, their freedom of movement, implementation of the documentation programme and their access to decision-makers.
Ongoing tribalism, elements of religious extremism and well-armed militias continue to demonstrate their power in the face of the new political administration and a largely secular society. These dynamics make the work of our partners and other women’s human rights defenders more difficult but also more critical.
For more information about current work see Libya Programmes 2017-2019