The new UN Envoy for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily said “women in Libya are among the most negatively impacted by Libya’s continued lack of political stability, but they are marginalized from the conversation about solutions.”
“We must do all we can to tap into women’s wisdom, amplify their ideas now, and dismantle barriers to their political participation in the future,” Bathily said, according to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Five out of 18 ministers in Libya’s Government of National Unity (GNU) are women. Women account for just 15% of the country’s two legislative bodies, including two women in the Libyan Parliament, and 20 women in the High Council of State (HCS) out of 133 members.
Bathily conferred quietly with the women, listening as they “aired their concerns about the proliferation of weapons, arbitrary arrests and detentions, the need for reconciliation and transitional justice – among other issues.”
Dina Fazzani, a human rights researcher who met with Bathily in Benghazi, observed that his willingness to “seek proposals from women is a good sign that he will prioritize human rights in his work.” As well as adding that “it will be important for him to continue to be transparent to build trust with the community.”
“Bathily was realistic and seemed to understand Libyan needs,” said Omaima Alfaqi, Head of the Aladsa Organization for Election Observation and Development, who met with the UNSMIL Head in Tripoli. “I left the meeting feeling very motivated.”
“When women are allowed to join discussions about the country’s future,” said Alfaqi, who is from Al-Jufra, “they are typically limited to support sectors that are traditionally seen as more feminine, such as healthcare, education, or social welfare. Libyan culture limits women to certain roles, and it takes a toll on women’s self-esteem. There is so much social stigma around women seeking power. She may be shamed if she tries to step outside the mould. Libyan women care a lot for their reputation, so this is demotivating.”
Amina Megheirbi, a professor at Benghazi University recounted facing resistance to her leadership in a human rights committee, during her time as an MP in 2012.
“Libyan women are capable of leading, but we are too often held back because of male dominance,” she said. Megheirbi also heads the nongovernmental organization Altawasul, which focuses on female and youth empowerment. “When women have a chance, we shine.”