Sidelining Libya's Women Will Hurt the Country's Future

Women exist to clean, cook, carry purses, and talk excessively, right? 

Well, the women of Libya did just that — they hid the rebels in their homes and cooked for them, they concealed bullets in their purses, and talked to journalists across the world. While women may not have appeared in the news holding their guns and clenching their fists, they left an indelible impact on their country in the revolution.

Why would they not do the same in Libya’s reconstructive future? Libya should foster long-term participation from women in their new-found democracy instead of sticking to the uniform post-revolution outcome where women are only temporarily relevant and their rights become transient issues.

Women did not shut the door to their homes after sending their husbands and sons to the front — they plotted their next move as Libyan citizens fighting for a universal cause. Just as the wives of WWI soldiers did, Libyan women began doing what they could within their homes: cooking for the rebels and offering a hideout. From there, they moved one step further and began attending protests and organizing demonstrations. Their words were their weapons.

These female revolutionaries have now gained enough momentum through the revolution that their voices cannot be unheard. Ignoring women in the reconciliation process can only hurt Libya’s already tenuous government stability. In order to ensure economic success, women should be allowed to contribute their skills and talents to the workforce. 

During his reign, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi claimed he was a champion of women’s rights and went so far as to boast that he had female bodyguards. Only recently was it revealed that Gaddafi and his sons in fact raped these bodyguards. Now that Gaddafi is out of power, women can finally advocate for their rights. But unfortunately it seems thus far, women have virtually played an invisible leadership role in rebuilding the country. Libya’s Transitional National Council is made up of 45 people. Only one woman is on the council. Furthermore, the council’s headquarters does not even contain a women’s bathroom.

It is important to make the distinction that the role of women in Libya’s future is not a women’s rights issue — it’s an issue of pragmatism.

The revolution proved something that many Libyan men may not have known or believed prior to the uprising — women can contribute equally to society. Yes, they are still able to cook and clean, but they are also capable of having their voice heard. They are capable of writing. They are capable of holding office. They are capable of reassembling a new nation.

The women of Libya were not coerced to fight — they fought out of a willingness to grow democracy in a seemingly arid country. The same willingness to lead in the reconstruction process is present in these women — so why not take advantage of a population full of unwavering, optimistic individuals?

Photo Credit: Magharebia