Women Inclusion in Libyan Peace and Security: Challenging the Status Quo

Would you ask someone for advice on how to solve a problem if that person did not exhibit any sign of compassion, empathy or sympathy with the cause ?

Similarly, do you think a person that is not affected by a certain problem or emotionally engaged by it would actually put in efforts in order to offer tangible solutions to solve it ?

The logical answer to the two questions above would be “no”. Yet our society seems controversial in approaching this simple problem solving rationale. People that are affected by an issue are the most likely ones to actively seek a sustainable solution for it. The issue we are going to focus on, considering the current #EndVAW campaign, is that of the marginalization of women and their exclusion from peace building solutions.

Luckily, the UN’s ratification of #UNSCR1325 at the dawn of the second millennium highlights a global recognition of the exclusion of women from the Peace and Security Agenda, and raises awareness on women violence. 15 years later, the worldwide community renewed their focus to better integrate gender in the international peace building strategy for the next five years through #UNSCR2242.

Being a trending topic, Women, Peace and Security has been the center of discussion of many. Certain individuals, activists and organizations actually center their attention on raising awareness, analyzing, planning and implementing solutions to try and tackle the issue, some with more success than others. The ratio of success usually is dependent upon the surrounding social and demographic context, but also on the degree of belief the activists involved exhibit in the cause and the number of women actually participating in tackling the problem. There have been ironic cases of organizations receiving funding to focus on women inclusion or empowerment, while members actually spread messages demeaning gender equality and women’s role in society.

Nevertheless, the continuously increasing acts of violence against women that have been recorded worldwide have made this problem a highly multi-faceted ones. Advanced countries such as the US have high rates of dating violence and sexual assault, whereas in developing countries, women are marginalized, emotionally abused and struggle to find their role in the social fabric. An example of an issue emerging in Libya is violence against women refugees and immigrants. Despite the differences in damage, physical or emotional, from partner or stranger, all these fall under the umbrella of “violence against women”.

And as highlighted by the first two questions, in our article, ending violence against women and promoting gender equality should be led by people that truly believe in the cause and most and foremost, women.

So why the fuss about women inclusion in peace building in general and what reasons would drive nations to implement #UNSCR1325 recommendations ?

When women are involved in implementing peace building solutions, this shows that all sections of society are actually taken into consideration and are included in solving the issue. Thus, there is ultimately increase in sustainability and the solution affects peace sustention on the long-run. An interesting example of this would be the post-conflict Rwandan parliament, constituted of 56% women. The Rwandan Patriotic-led government actually focused on including women in its parliament to sustain peace with one condition: talks about ethnic-related topics that would possibly drive conflict would be banned. The strategy arguably worked as the African country has surpassed most Western ones in terms of parliament gender parity. In comparison, Libya’s statistics show 10–16% women representation in elected bodies, however, their nominal presence has unfortunately not translated into a tangible political influence.

Women view life through a different lens than men and thus approach discussions and peace talks differently. Their inclusion in dialogues increases the number of scenarios and solutions that can be discussed. A simple proof of this would be asking a male and a female friend for advice regarding an issue. Separately, they may look at the issue from one-side exclusively, whereas together, they may engineer solutions that tackle the heart of the problem effectively. In Libya, women face issues being included and offering input due to exclusionary practices, some men prefer to meet at night which is viewed as a dangerous/non-acceptable time for women to be out. Another cultural barrier is the fact most Libyan men don’t view women as a peer that should share decision-making power with them.

In general, it can also be argued that women are less likely to resort to violence than men, and there are less chances of them being victim of ethnic/racial based violence. In most checkpoints in Libya, males driving cars with female passengers are less likely to be questioned due to this paradigm. The same rationale can be used in negotiations between two parties through sending women to participate in dialogues. In essence, their presence is less associated with their ethnic and racial background, which encourages better negotiations. Men do realize that in Libya and some have even taken the opportunity to encourage women participation, however most advocates for women inclusion would want elected women to focus on “women-related’’ issues and not to be involved in nation-wide challenges, which is both controversial and unproductive.

Lastly, most men can actually adhere to the fact that we have, at least at some point in our lives, been influenced by a woman. Although it might seem taboo due to our cultural trends for a woman to discuss “nation-related” issues with men, our Prophet-PBUH always used to seek assistance and guidance from Sayeeda Khadeja. Whether it be a mother, a sister or a wife, most men still seek assistance and therefore have a sense of respect for women in their lives. This respect can actually influence most men into adhering to women-led decisions in regards to peace. Such was the case in Liberia, where women rallied nation-wide in early 2000’s to stop a war that had been ongoing for 15 years. Their initiative led to a peace agreement that is still upheld by the Liberian community today.

We have actually recently witnessed a similar viral action that cause upheaval and conflicting opinions in both Libyan men and women’s point of views, namely due to a woman removing her headscarf in Martyr’s square. Although the origins of the woman and reasons for her scarf removal have been questioned, this actually shows how much influence women have in the Libyan society.

Perhaps these arguments would convince some men to encourage their wives, sisters and daughters to participate in building a peaceful Libya. After all, our society is built by both men and women, it is therefore only logical to include both parties in the peace making process in order to establish gender-sensitive peace. Remember, it isn’t only a woman you are including in the peace making process, it is the person whom you depend on to create the future generation.

P.S : In lights of Project Silphium’s involvement in the issues of both the inclusion of young women in the agendas of Peace and Security in the Arab States, we will follow up this article with another presenting the more recent #UNSCR2250.

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