by Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 6 June:
Phoenix, a local NGO focusing on the empowerment of women and children, held a launch event for . . .[restrict]their new day centre to commemorate their first anniversary yesterday. Over 80 people attended including US ambassador Chris Stevens.
As the first women’s organization registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Phoenix says its mission is to create a space where women and children can gather and benefit from the various programmes provided at the centre. Priority is given to those who have been affected by the war. Phoenix aims to continue empowering their participants through “educational and awareness programmes, capacity building and training workshops, in order for participants to become strong, independent individuals, capable of leading healthy lives.”
Guided tours of the new centre located in Tripoli’s Ben Ashur disrict was given by Phoenix members, focusing guests’ attention to the photos displayed on the walls which recount the war and the organisations activities through out the year. An onlooker said: “Seeing these pictures fills me with many emotions and brings back memories from the war, they reflect Libya’s journey and progress.“ Live music played as attendees spoke over food and beverages, discussing women’s issues, the elections and events of the week, especially the Tripoli airport incident, which many viewed as major setback to Libya’s recovery. They feared further delays in the return of international companies and investors.
Our tour guide, a medical student who volunteers during her free time, was excited to show the new spaces allocated for children. “We will look after children and keep them entertained, mothers who participate in our programs or come to our tea hour, can bring their children and not worry, we have a play room and an arts and craft room,” she said.
Sara Shukri, a Phoenix founder, added: “We will open a library on the second floor and plan to stock children books in the kids’s areas as well”. Visibly proud of the new centre and the work done to reach this goal, Phoenix is aware of the work ahead of them. “We are currently being trained by Creative Associates in capacity building to better organize ourselves and to continue developing our programmes” said another Phoenix member.
Five Libyan women, who had left Libya during the revolution, formed Phoenix in Tunisia. Wanting to help their country, they started to build a small network of volunteers and began collecting donations to buy relief supplies for Libyans who had been displaced by the fighting and forced to live in refugee camps. Soon after the liberation of Libya, “Phoenix returned home” to continue their efforts and reach more women and children.
Last November, Phoenix was among the first women’s groups to publicly show support for the war’s rape victims. “We organized a silent march in solidarity with those raped during the war, as a symbol of the government’s silence over the victims’ ordeals” said founder Ibtihal Nayed as she addressed the invitees. The march led to Prime Minster Abdurrahim Al-Kib meeting protestors and signing a receipt of demands proposed by Phoenix. The following day, as a result of the march, a committee was formed by the Ministry of Social affairs, taking into consideration their proposal.
Phoenix was also among the first to address the psychological effects of war by working with Libyan American psychiatrist Dr. Omar Reda, on a trauma recovery programme entitled “Libya Al-Shefa” (Healing). They plan to continue with these efforts and have dedicated a room where a local psychiatrist can meet with women and children.
The organisation’s programmes are free and will continue to focus on violence against women, political awareness, small business startup, English-language training and trauma recovery for both women and children.
Programmes have been made possible by private donations and by funding from several organisations including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Chemonics and Creative Associates.
For further information on Phoenix visit www.phoenixlibya.org