The 16th anniversary of UN resolution 1325 is around the corner; and every year, we share the stories and experiences of women peacebuilders in fragile and conflict-affected countries. This time, we talk with Inas Miloud, Leading Coordinator of the Libyan 1325 Network. She reminds us that peace and security is not just about stopping bullets, but about an inclusive society in which both men and women have the same opportunities and voice.
‘5 years after Kaddafi’s death: Libya worse than ever’ the news headlines state. Though a UN Peace Agreement was signed in December 2015, the fighting in parts of Libya still continues. A new national unity government rules in Tripoli, but with militias and IS fighting over the peace agreement’s implementation, and their own interests, the country is still in a bad state: politically, economically and socially.
In Tripoli, I am always expecting to die at any moment.
When war is your everyday life
At first glance, Inas Miloud (26) seems not much affected by the turmoil: “It’s amazingly quiet now in Tripoli, where I live. I am not affected by what happens in other parts of Libya.” But then, she qualifies her words: “I have started to normalize the war experience.”
Nothing is ever normal when it comes to war: “Me living my life in Tripoli, I am always expecting to die at any moment. This is the same for anyone in Libya, I guess. When I hear a fight happening, my reaction to it is very calm. I always try to be aware of that when I talk about the situation here. But it’s very difficult and challenging, for sure. Especially considering the fact that I am a woman, and a young woman too.”
Since its establishment in 2014, Inas has been Leading Coordinator of the 1325 Network in Libya (founded by Cordaid partner Maan Nabneeha or ‘Together we Build it’), a network that raises awareness about women, peace and security, rallies together civil society and activists around a common flag, and monitors the implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Libya.
Of course I am powerful and there are so many powerful women out there.
It’s not always easy for a young woman to get a foothold in a male-dominated society. At just 26, she frequently trains and works with men and women twice her age: “Being a woman affects how I am being observed. The public opinion considers us powerless.” Not Inas, though: “Of course I am powerful and there are so many powerful women out there.”
But privileges for women are lacking: “When I need a document for my driver’s license, I have to bring my father. I am not allowed to go to certain places alone without a male companion. I can go outside in the morning, but have to be back before the evening, as I should not be outdoors at night. Yet, my brother can do all these things.”
Cordaid supports the 1325 Network for Libya as partner in the Dutch National Action Plan on 1325. Only a week ago, the partners in Libya were awarded 2 million euros by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their advocacy and awareness-raising work. What is the success of Inas’ approach?
Women are both a vulnerable group and important actors in peacebuilding.
“Our first step is always advocacy. We talk about the reasons why women should be part of society and peacebuilding, we raise awareness about gender roles and we engage supporters. Every time people hear us, they ask: why focus on women within peace and security? It affects all of society, not only women. We try to explain that women are both a vulnerable group and important actors in peacebuilding.”
Continuing: “The second step is showing life examples, to engage people in the conversation. You see the change in people when people they respect speak out and show their support. Once we had a workshop in the mountains, and people were challenging my perspective; but then a respected old man stated his support, and I was successful in gaining the attendants’ trust. Women started sharing their examples, and the workshop really took off.”
Creating a platform for sharing
“Women, peace and security is not just about quota for women joining the police force, contrary to what many seem to think. It is also women going to schools, ensuring that work is sustainable. It is about formal spaces like community meetings where women can express their views. And that is the third: creating a platform where 1325 actors can share experiences, rural (indigenous) and urban women together, and where they can act upon Resolution 1325. That is what we do.”
The media forget to look at Libya’s history. This country has only ever known 41 years of peace; and it was a negative kind of peace.
The true nature of peace
What is peace, when it comes to comparing the situation of women now and before? “When the media say that the country may have been better off during the Kaddafi era, they forget to look at Libya’s history. This country has only ever known 41 years of peace; and it was a negative kind of peace with lots of violence against civilians, especially against women. There were female soldiers, granted, but there was no platform for them.”
Inas speaks resolutely: “I don’t want to compare now and five years ago. Yes, our economy is bad, there’s little security, we’ve had to say goodbye to lost loved ones. But the resistance, the power of hope, continues to inspire me. It’s unbelievable! I still have huge hopes for Libya.”
> Are you in New York for the 16th anniversary of Resolution 1325? Then subscribe to our 26 Oct panel discussion ‘From Local Action to Global Change’ and hear more of Inas’ experiences and best practices!
> Cordaid launches a Handbook on Integrating Gender, Peacebuilding and Statebuilding. Download here!