How a building can change women’s lives in Ubari
“I was very happy when the Women’s Center was rehabilitated.” This means a lot to everyone in the city as the center is supporting women in various aspects, such as helping them to improve their skills so that they could get jobs and empowering them to defend their rights and to be active in their community, both economically and socially,” explains Ms. Bata Shagoul, a social affairs officer in Ubari. She speaks eagerly and expresses her joy over the progress made for women in her community.
Prior to rehabilitation, the building used for the Women’s Center served as the department for social affairs. Because of the conflict in 2011 and 2016, the severe destruction made it dysfunctional. As peace and security were established, rehabilitating the building became a priority. Now it serves as a safe space for women and the wider community to learn and interact.
In 2017, UNDP’s Stabilization Facility for Libya rehabilitated the building which was turned into a modern center with office furniture and desktop computers, a sewing workshop, and an equipped kitchen. The center today is used by more than 150 women aged 18 to 65 and provides a space for them to share and generate ideas, learn, acquire new skills, and support each other. It also serves as the exhibition hall for local artists to showcase their work, hence promoting local culture. The center is the only such public facility in the city of Ubari, which contributes to the empowerment of women, and community development.
“The most important issue that this space supports is women’s political participation, raising their civic awareness through workshops and trainings,” says Ms. Shagoul. “These have included discussions over the local political situation, elections, sources of conflict, and the like. Men are also welcome. As community members, they are invited to participate in specific events and activities, to learn about the issues raised, and to offer support where necessary.”
Eager to learn
At the center, women are exposed to different activities and learning opportunities to improve their skills which may result in income generation. These include computer literacy, language learning, driving, handcrafting, first aid, cooking, perfume making, sewing and knitting, and others. Since the opening, the center has provided training to more than 3,000 women, many of whom now offer their products to the local market, launched their own business, and market their products online.
“The urge of the women of Ubari to learn is what motivated me to offer courses in cooking and baking,” shares one of the trainers at the center, Ms. Somaya Khalil. “I was surprised to see the passion of these women. I prepare meals for weddings and public events. In Ubari, there is huge demand for homemade products, because they are of better quality than the restaurant meals.”
Such training has contributed to creating opportunities for women to earn a living and empowered them to become economically active. “In fact, vocational training help women to be independent economically, so they do not have to rely on the government salary,” adds Ms. Khalil, “We thank the United Nations Development Programme and its partners for its support to women. Today, the products of Ubari’s women represent a large part of the local market.”
“With additional support, the small businesses can be expanded and contribute to major recovery of Ubari’s local economy. Ubari enjoys a distinguished geographical location, as it is the capital of Wadi Al-Hayat area and the eastern gateway to the municipality of Ghat. However, many businesses do not have sources of funding, and that makes their ideas just a dream,” continues Ms. Khalil.
A space for development and peace
Ms. Fatima Al-Zahra, a resident of Ubari and a member of the Tebu community, works at the center and helps organize events such as an exhibition for peace held recently with participation of a woman activist, Ms. Khadija Andidi. The exhibition was attended by women representing different communities, including Tebu. Women activists and influencers such as Ms. Andidi have played an important role in attracting women from different communities to participate in the center activities, at the same time establishing and maintaining dialogue and contributing to reconciliation between these communities.
Given that the city of Ubari is composed of different ethnical groups, the center and events such as exhibitions have provided a platform for these groups, and particularly women, to come together to discuss, debate, and collaborate, raise issues of common interest and concerns, and propose ideas and solutions. This has also helped identify areas of conflict, address sensitivities, and prevent and resolve conflict within the community.
“The rehabilitation of the women’s center and its use are clear step towards conflict prevention, reconciliation, local peace, and stability, and it is exactly what UNDP does in Libya,” said UNDP Libya Resident Representative, Mr. Marc-André Franche.
One of the main objectives of UNDP Libya’s Country Programme is to strength Libyan institutions and civil society to make them able to better respond to the needs of the people, by improving their capacities to design, develop, and implement social policies that focus on quality social services delivery.
Through its Stabilization Facility, with support from 13 international partners and the Government of Libya, UNDP helped 4.5 million Libyan to have also better access to water, electricity, and education by rehabilitating critical infrastructure such as sewage, power networks, and educational, cultural, and healthcare facilities. It also helped to build capacities of municipal authorities and the civil society to analyze and address conflict.
“Implementing our Country Programme in Libya, guided by the Sustainable Development Goals, we are improving access to basic services, and the overall quality of life of the Libyan population. IDPs are returning home and Municipalities are better equipped to respond to residents, which contribute to increase trust and accountability leaving no one behind,”
UNDP Libya Resident Representative, Mr. Marc-André Franche