By Bahiyya Bajjar
Eighty Libyan women, from Libya’s civil society met for the second day of the “Libyan Women Between Hope and Reality” Conference, organized by Libya Institute for Advanced Studies in association with The Free Communications Organization (Jameeat Tawassul) and Voice of Truth for Libyan Women (Saut Al Haqq li’l Nisaa’i Libyeen).
The sessions of the second day began with an intensive and interactive workshop led by Bahhiya Bajjar, international expert in communication, aimed at building teamwork among the delegates to show their ability to communicate aspirations with clarity and emotion.
“The aim of this conference is to bring women working at the grassroots level together from many parts of Libya,” said conference organizer Mohamed Htewish, director of Libya Institute for Advanced Studies. “Many of these women are working in isolation, some in very remote areas. They are not used to coming together in this way. We hope these efforts mark the first step towards creating cooperative networks for these outstanding civil society activists.”
Mr. Marwan Tushani, who represents the Libyan Judges Organization, led the second session focusing on “judicial authority in the constitution and international standards”. Judge Tushani emphasized the importance of women in Libya’s future. He took issue with the conventional notion that judicial institutions are not part of civil society and have no responsibility to represent women’s issues. He explained the challenges and fears jurists are facing in Libya during this transitional phase, from violence, threats of assassination, to intimidation and other forms of coercion. He stressed that there were three priorities at this stage of constitutional development: international standards, national reconciliation, and human rights. He stated that basic constitutional foundations should come from international and European conventions to counter the exclusion of women from decision-making processes.
Judge Tushani raised the question as to whether the constitutional council will succeed in delivering a constitution for Libya. According to Tushani, there is no way to know as long as the council refuses to hand in a final draft for review; questioning the motives behind the delays. There are many issues that have yet to be resolved. No women are represented on the Supreme Court and there has been no declaration of financial and administrative independence of judicial authority in the current constitution drafts. In the history of judicial councils, only one woman was elected in Libya, which demonstrates that Libyan women have little chances of attaining influential leadership roles.
Judge Tushani’s speech was followed by contributions from Constitutional Committee member Menam Abdraba on the challenges of implementing a state based on law and order, due to the current aggravated security situation and the political conflicts in Libya. According to Abdraba: “ Libya now, sadly, looks more like a failed state”.
Dr. Zayneb Al Zaydi, one of the only five women out of 60 elected to the Libyan Constitutional Assembly, spoke passionately about the importance off women’s role in building the country for future generations, even at the expense of their rights for the time being. “Our struggle against discrimination is an ongoing process for generations to come. We have to take great pains to ensure that a strategy for women will be implemented to secure the future of Libya and our future as citizens. One of the main points she highlighted was on the differences between ‘Shariah’ and the constitution. “Why is Shariah only applied when it comes to the question of women’s rights? We reject discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, sex, or origins. Continual pressure exerted from media and civil society organizations is the only way out of this. If we don’t get our voices heard, we are at risk of losing everything.”