Tripoli, 7 January:
Yesterday was the first of a new bi-weekly discussion forum called “marbo3a seeyasia” (Political Sittings, gatherings or salons) that took place at the Voice of Libyan Women Zawia Women’s Center, aimed at having focus group discussions on politics and how they relate and affect the current events in Libya from the perspective of the women of Zawia.
The first discussion focused firstly on political exclusion and if/how the women of Zawia would like to see it enforced. They generally agreed that they want political exclusion only for those who directly benefited from the previous regime, who are guilty of crimes, transgressions, and of negatively affecting life in Libya. They stressed the importance of clarifying the term “political exclusion” to explicitly outline those who would be affected, rather than a broad term to disqualify any public servant during the past 42 years from taking public office.
They then answered questions from the news channel France 24 on women’s role in Libyan politics. An interesting discussion ensued on which was more important – the number of women in the General National Congress (GNC) or the opinions they presented. Many women felt that the number of women does not matter if they refuse to bring up the issues important to the women in their constituencies, who they are meant to represent.
They extended this further by saying that right now in Libya, despite having an adequate number of women in the GNC, women’s issues are not being raised, which is the same for the GNC as a whole in that it is not solely women’s rights issues that are not being raised, but human rights issues in general are also not being brought up.
They expressed their disappointment at current female and their lack of GNC members’ participation and they feel they have been let down because all the GNC members, women included, have chosen their own interests over the interests of Libya as a whole. This was particularly important at such a pivotal point in Libyan history, where these women will shape the role of Libyan women and the image they have in Libyan society and internationally for decades to come.
There followed a discussion on the importance of youth participation and how the women felt disappointed again not only by the lack of women in Prime Minister Zeidan’s government (they feel that the two women to get ministerial positions are only there to appease the international community) but also by the lack of youth.
They diverged the discussion away from women to highlight Zeidan’s failure to accept a well respected applicant from Zawia for the position of the Minister of Agriculture on the grounds that he, at 42, was “too young” which they said demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of Libyan society.
It was felt that if someone in his 40s is considered too young, that means so are more than three quarters of the rest of Libyans and that the young men who fought for the revolution (this discussion got quite heated as five of those present were mothers and sisters of martyrs) are being short changed, and if the young are not being engaged and involved now, it will most affect the young women.