New York, 10 May:
The American Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has praised the role of women in Libya’s revolution . . .[restrict]and subsequent transition democracy, and called on them to serve in the country’s new parliament.
Writing on the social networking site Facebook, Ms Rice said the world “will never forget how Libyan women served side-by-side with Libyan men in the February 17 revolution”, and praising the fact that “Libyan women are entitled to join Libyan men to cast votes and seek parliamentary seats.”
In recent weeks, Libya has played host to a plethora of international and national conferences aimed at enhancing the role of women in civil society and politics. Earlier this month, Libya sent a delegation to the launch of a major new coalition in Tunis aimed at championing full participation by women in Arab society. Called ALWANE ( “my colours” in Arabic), the coalition is comprised of 17 national committees representing each Arab country, and will engage in targeted advocacy and awareness campaigns around the role and rights of women in the Arab world.
Supporters of women’s rights argue that such initiatives are badly needed and that women still face an uphill struggle when it comes to playing a more active role in Libyan public life.
In January, the NTC proposed a quota for the national assembly, in which 10 percent of seats would be set-aside for women. At the time, the quota was derided by women’s groups as being too low, given that women make up more than 50 per cent of the Libyan population. However, even that quota was dropped after feedback from the public revealed that 80 per cent of the 14,000 emails received by the NTC were against it.
In spite of this, a number of women have registered to stand in elections, albeit in disproportionately lower numbers to men. For instance, of the 455 candidates who filed applications to run for seats on the Benghazi local council, 22 were women. This figure was five times higher than in Misrata, however, where there were just four female candidates out of a total of 245.
In March, former Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril lent his voice in support of women becoming politically active in Libya. Speaking at a conference to mark International Women’s Day, he encouraged women to take part in the country’s developing democracy and urged them to vote, saying, “women’s votes will make the difference”.
He also warned that women in Libya should not expect rights to be given to them, saying they would need to take them for themselves.