The German ambassador Christian Much launched the women's “it will be our constitution” campaign by sending the first of 50,000 SMS messages at an event in Tripoli yesterday.
The Gender Concerns International (www.genderconcerns.org) and Women for Democratic Transformation Platform (www.wdtplatform.org), with the support of the German government, organized an event at the Radisson hotel under the banner “It was our Revolution. It is our election and it will be our constitution” to increase Libyan women's participation and role in local politics.
Upon launching the SMS campaign, the German ambassador noted that his country benefited from being governed by a woman. He highlighted Thursday's constitutional elections as the beginning of the process and the launch of 50,000 SMS messages for increased women's role and participation will be an important part of that process.
Samira Masoodi, former head of Libya's Women's Union, an umbrella group representing a cross section of women's NGOs, said that although 558 women stood for the GNC elections of 2012, only one woman was elected without the list system. Although the 558 standing was a good start, it was still a struggle to get women elected outside the list system.
After upheavels and revolution, women are one of the first to suffer she noted. That is why Libyan women fought for a quota of only 35 percent in the constitutional drafting committee, she explained, even though they represent 50 percent of society. Ultimately, only 10 percent, or 6 seats were obtained in the committee.
Masoodi stressed that there can be no democracy without women's rights. “If women did not enjoy their rights how can they bring up generations that respect rights?”, she asked.
Sabro Bano, Director of Gender Concerns said that “After the Arab Spring you cannot cage people and their thoughts. There are no borders for thoughts and freedoms”, she said. Inclusion is important and fundamental. History has shown that nations can only progress if there is inclusion, she explained.
Azza Maghur, a leading lawyer, human rights activist and a member of the newly formed GNC “February” committee formed to prepare for the new roadmap section B said that women's rights are inalienable rights, not demands or requests to be given to them.
Maghur noted that security and extremism affected women as a group most and that Libyan women cannot be cut off from the rest of the world. The human rights activist said that Libya's specific local circumstances should be positive in favour of women, not negative.
However, since Libyan women cold only obtain 6 seats on the constitutional drafting committee of 60, these 6 women should be very able.
On the subject of Islamic Sharia, Maghur said that this should not be misused to supress women – she feared that it will be misused.
The constitution should be balanced she said, and sections within it cannot contradict each other. For example, Islamic Sharia should not contradict human rights.
The constitution should also have a specific section on women, she concluded.
Political commentator and activist Sadig Zaroug said in his presentation that he hoped the new constitution will give the same rights and protection to women as is the case in the current Transitional Constitutional Declaration.
Zaroug argue for a special case for women within the constitution as women are responsible for bringing up generations of children, therefore this should be kept in mind and protection should be offered in recognition of this paramount role.
He felt that women should be paid by the state for this role, especially as they are forced to leave work – as if she were a teacher at home, he explained.
A political constitution should guarantee her rights in a clear and transparent way.
Zaroug called on the various women's movements to unite and speak and act as one stronger body for their rights.