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FACTDROP: Women frustrated by role in Libya


Women frustrated by role in Libya

Πηγή: The Tennessean
Dec 3 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — After repeated delays, Libya announced the lineup for a transitional government that will draft a constitution and prepare the country for elections.

Those who set up the interim government said they tried to ensure that the demands of regional and political factions were met. But there’s one group that says it remains seriously under-represented in the new government: women.

Of the 20-odd new ministers, two are women — and they hold the traditionally female roles of health and social affairs.

In the scores of government councils created in cities and towns to replace those of the toppled regime of Moammar Gadhafi, hardly any women are present.

“We’re really frustrated there’s not more female representation,” said Salha Saddik Soussi from the Libya Women’s Alliance. “It’s very important that women have a role in writing the new constitution.”
Women want say

Although it was men who took up arms to free Libya from Gadhafi, women say they played an important part in Libya’s eight-month-long civil uprising and should have a say in how their liberated society is shaped.

“Women took on the role of the state,” said Shahrazad Kablan, a Benghazi-born teacher and activist who presented a show on Free Libya television. “They were feeding people, they were taking people to the hospitals, they were nurses, doctors, they were financiers, they sold their gold, they transported weapons, they made weapons at home, they financed the freedom fighters.”

Libya is a deeply conservative, male-dominated country. In a 2009 index on gender equality published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, it ranked 91st out of 102 countries.

Outside the capital and major cities, most women wear head scarves and hide their bodies under long layers of loose clothing. Unaccompanied women do not go out after dark, and many do not drive.

Libya’s legal system theoretically allows women an unusual degree of freedom in the region. Gadhafi’s Green Book, in which the dictator set out his philosophies, states that a woman’s place is in the home, but Gadhafi traveled with a band of female bodyguards.

During his 42 years in power, women attended universities and made careers as lawyers, doctors and teachers.

But politics remained off limits to many women during his time in power.

“You couldn’t get involved in politics. To get involved with government, it was a very tricky thing, it was very risky,” said Amal Jerrari from the media and communication committee of the National Transitional Council. “Women who did get up there would be considered improper, and that would cause them to get a poor reputation for them and their families. It was like a curse.”

Salwa Bugaighis was one of a handful of women who served in the NTC, Libya’s interim governing body. She resigned in frustration, saying she wasn’t being heard, and she is trying to gain influence with civil rights groups springing up throughout Libya.

“In the National Transitional Council, they don’t care about the voice of women. There’s no respect,” she said. “The majority of them are men. Most of them, when you talk, they don’t listen to you. It’s the mentality deep inside. You feel you are excluded.”

Many of the local councils that sprang up during the revolution have few or no female members.

When asked why women were not better represented, the head of the all-male city council of Zintan, Omran Eturki, said, “It’s very hard work.”

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