By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 16 May:
A two day seminar and workshop started at the Waddan hotel yesterday, 15 May, entitled ‘Preparing for . . .[restrict]the First Elections – Women’s Political Empowerment in Libya’.
The event was organized by the Voice of Libyan Women and Demo Finland, and was supported by the Government of Finland. It had participants from Libya, Finland, Tunisia and the UN, and about 100 people attended.
Ambassador of Finland in Libya, Tina Jortikkan-Laitinen, opening the event remarked that ‘we need women in all leading positions. Political empowerment focuses on capabilities and we need to examine women’s equalities and capabilities to conduct political campaigns’.
Noting the various nationalities and experiences of the following speakers, she commented that ‘this workshop is a timely occasion to learn from each other’s experiences’.
Alla Murabit, head of VLW noted that Libyan women ‘returned to their culturally accepted roles after the Revolution, be it in Libya, Tunisia or Egypt. They did not hold on to those gains in rights that they had gained during the Revolution’.
Attia al-Aujli, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Civil Societies asked rhetorically ‘why is it that women’s political empowerment is important? It is because no society hoping for development, progress and prosperity will flourish without women playing their full role. There is no one who deserves support more than the Libyan women who played a great role during the revolution’, he concluded.
Mari Kiviniemi, former woman Prime Minister of Finland and current Member of Parliament, commented regarding the speed of change in women’s roles in Libya saying that ‘social structures will not change overnight, therefore role models are important’.
‘It took Finland 100 years to elect its first prime minister’, she stated, to which the audience chuckled, ‘but I am sure it will not take you as long’, she quickly added, reassuring her audience. ‘We live in a completely different society today’ she explained.
Regarding her tips for success in politics, Kiviniemi felt that ‘zeal, patience, confidence and perseverance were important. Expect more pressure as a woman’, she warned her overwhelmingly female audience.
She stressed that the teaching of rights should start early. ‘Education should start at school so women have their rights and that both men and women have their equal rights. The media plays a big part of this too’.
When asked by members of the audience as to what might have been the reason of the success of women’s rights in Finland, the former prime minister felt that ‘simple things such as the law of Finland guaranteeing hot meals at schools for every student so that women did not feel they had to be home to feed their children and the right of every child to a place at daycare centers’, were important.
She felt that this ‘reduces the pressure on women to be at home and they can pursue their working lives equal to me’.
On the issue of quotas for women, Abdallah Fortia, member of NTC said that ‘we tried to introduce a quota but unfortunately there was strong opposition to it, even from women’. When challenged to clarify who and where this opposition was from, Mr Fortia evaded the question. He added that women who rejected the quota system wanted to get into the Congress or Assembly based on capability.
He then set about explaining the mechanism for the National Congress elections in June. He felt that the two-thirds majority system adopted will give a voice to regions and women. He explained that the constitution will be drafted by the ‘Committee of 60’ and that again there was no quota system put in place guaranteeing places for women. [/restrict]