Women play a critical role at all levels in building sustainable peace but they are facing multifaceted challenges rooted in gender inequality, often undermining their meaningful participation in peace negotiations. In the light of these challenges, EU Ambassador Walter Stevens was particularly delighted to welcome to the discussion several courageous Libyan women who have been relentlessly involved in the Libyan peace process.
Before giving the floor to Hajer Sharief, a renowned Libyan activist and co-founder of the NGO “Together We Build it”, who moderated the event, Ambassador Stevens underlined that “women are major stakeholders in peace building, often close to grassroots and societal needs. We need to make sure that their voices are heard.”
Hajer Sharief was joined by Dr. Abeir Imneina, Professor at the University of Benghazi, Inas Miloud, co-founder and chairperson of Tamazight Women’s Movement, as well as Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach at Lawyers for Justice in Libya,.
In view of the recent developments in Libya, Ms. Miloud noted that there has been progress in terms of women’s participation in the peace process. However, she stressed that 17 women out of 75 participants in the political negotiations is not enough, while women’s meaningful participation is often undermined by their lack of security. “Libyan women activists are facing huge challenges and threats, as tragically manifested by the recent assassination in Benghazi in broad daylight of Mrs Al-Barassi, a well-known human rights activist.”
The issue of insecurity and lack of a safe environment for women was echoed by Ms. Mohamed, emphasizing that real peace for Libya requires the restoration of the rule of law and accountability. "We see continuous attacks on women in Libya, not only on the streets but also online. We need to end the cycle of impunity when it comes to violence against women." Dr. Imneina confirmed that women were easy targets, often keeping silent over fear of being further stigmatized. Women human rights defenders are also harassed online and on social media while legislation protecting women from such action does not exist in Libya.
The panellists welcomed the recent ceasefire agreement as an important step in the right direction, while critically pointing out that its success will depend on its concrete implementation on the ground. “We want to see sustainable peace, box-ticking is not enough”, underlined Ms. Mohamed. Referring to the role of the international community, the activist also shed light on a number of obstacles, including language barriers and logistical challenges, which need to be taken into consideration to enable Libyan women’s participation in the international peace process.
Given that Libya is a close neighbour of the European continent, Ms. Miloud also put emphasis on the role of the European Union: “To enable a successful translation of the peace agreement on the ground, it is crucial to provide resources for the many Libyan civil society organisations and grassroots movements, to help ensuring a more diverse and inclusive peace process.”
Ambassador Stevens thanked the brave panellists for sharing their insights and recommendations by concluding: “The event has shown even more that there will be no peace in Libya without women. The EU will continue to support Libya’s path to peace, by helping to ensure that women are equally represented in the peace process.”