Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Women represent 56% of the Libyan population, but they have been historically left out of social progression and consistently are denied rights and equal opportunities. The majority of Libyan women are homemakers and stay at home mothers—primarily because those are the expectations that are placed upon them. In the tribal context of the Libyan community where 99% of Libyans are Muslim, religious quotes are misused to create a pseudo-justification for families and society to manipulate and exclude women from opportunities outside of the home. In the past, religious manipulation and misinterpretation led communities to believe myths about Islam and women’s subordinate role in society. Unfortunately, these notions have preserved and since worsened, having an influence on Libyan culture that has brought harmful effects including the justification of domestic violence, the harassment of women in public spaces, and the denial of women’s economic and political participation.
The current situation is escalated by the lack of existing legal and judicial structures which would serve to protect women's rights. Because women feel even more vulnerable in public, there are very few female social, political, economic, or religious leaders.
Further, in a country closed off from much of the world for decades, foreign and especially western influence is viewed with strong suspicion. The Libyan civil society, with a history of four decades of monopolization by the pre-revolution regime, has only recently started to develop. The lack of experience and influence of the nascent Libyan civil society, the lack of functioning networks, as well as the lack of general awareness, leads to little to no statistics, research or accurate information regarding the status of women's problems. This negatively affects the likelihood of policy changes. Additionally the civil society’s lack of experience leads to the inability of the sector to adequately reach citizens, hindering the establishment of a united women's front. Moreover, the media sector in Libya, much like civil society, is immature and misguided. It keeps Libyan women ignorant of their rights rather than educating them and shedding light on their important role and opportunities.
Although there are several citizen sector organizations in Libya that are addressing women’s rights, they primarily focus on aid and policy, failing to address the unspoken root causes of cultural taboos and religious misinterpretations.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Alaa is creating a society that values the fundamental rights of all citizens, and is inclusive of women in all spheres. Within tribal communities of the North African region, starting with Libya, the citizen sector is in its infancy and there is a prevalent attitude surrounding the marginalization of women from mainstream social activity. Alaa is at the forefront of reversing this issue by using context specific approaches to address the underlying philosophy and mindset of the community. Alaa is changing the religious discourse regarding women’s position in society and participation in different aspects of public life by utilizing positive references in the religious teaching to make a strong case for women equality in the society. By doing this, Alaa is not only mobilizing community members to critically analyze their own social and cultural traditions, but is also using the same vehicles which have led to the denial of women’s social, economic and political rights to reverse the situation.
Critical to Alaa’s work is creating an inclusive community movement on the national level through policy change and advocacy, and on the local level through awareness, network establishment and mobilization. To reach a national scale, Alaa targets policy makers and the media to create a public opinion supportive of women’s rights. Locally, Alaa engages religious leaders (Imams), schools, universities, and community members, mobilizing them to publicly cite and display Quranic verses and other religious teachings which imply a positive understanding of women’s roles and rights. Alaa’s community movement involves gathering statistical data on the different challenges women face to enhance her media and policy efforts, carrying out awareness campaigns and critical thinking classes in schools as well as university debates around contentious women’s issues; and uniting women’s voices within spaces that empower them.