By Maysem El mabrouk
If Libyans want sustainable peace from the deepest roots, then there are few facts they need to understand and believe in, one of them is; when it comes to peace-building, women are crucial agent towards peace and ending the ongoing conflict in the country. This is not a slogan of a feminism theory I’m repeating, this is a realization of my four years of experience within working with internally displaced persons.
Women in displaced camps in Libya
Since the start of the Libyan revolution in 2011, thousands of Libyan families had to flee their homes to become internally displaced in their own country, and today after almost five years they are still not able to return due to security and political reasons.
since I started to focus on displaced camps, mainly leading humanitarian aid campaigns, as you can imagine a humanitarian aid campaign consists of the basic needs for a person to survive and not to live. However after a great number of these campaigns, I started to realize that food, blankets and medical supplies are not the only things they need.
What they need is to first stop being treated as vulnerable groups, they don’t want to be stuck in the idea that they are displaced or refugees in their own country, and for that we should always bring donations for them. Even that the majority of them still don’t accept their new reality and they are hoping to return to their houses one day, yet they recognize it and want to improve it. Many of them are willing to move on with their lives despite the horrible conditions of the camps. They want to go back to school, universities, they want to work and feel that they are valuable to themselves, families and their communities.
One of these displaced camps hosts thousands of people from the city of Tawergha, who denied return to their homes to be displaced across Libya, having the opportunity to meet and had long conversations with mothers living in the camp, it made me realize how much courageous and powerful women can be.
One time I was delivering a health lecture at the camp – with about 500 families, a mother approached me and said: “Our children need lectures on current issues. It would be good if you can focus on empowering the youth living in this camp and talk to them about things like transitional justice”. The opinion of this mom reflected to me the way of thinking of these women, that despite the fact that their kids – the youth in the camp- are victims of the armed conflict, yet they want them to play an active role in the context of peace building. They know that the country won’t reach peace and they won’t return to their homes unless the community, women and youth play an active role in promoting for peace.
Although Tawerghan women have suffered most in the armed conflict and their lives are limited to a life of a camp. However from my conversations with them and listening to their demands, it is obvious that the knowledge these women have on peace building and non-violent conflict resolutions, exceeds the knowledge of the world peace experts, who holds masters and PhD degrees on peace building and conflict resolution because they are the ones on ground, they are the ones countering violent in the camps and they most importantly they are the ones who understands that peace is much more than just ending a war.