While the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath are opening spaces for women’s involvement, there also exists a strong backlash against women’s rights and gender equality. People are becoming citizens anew, but unlearning old practices and habits is not easy. New democracies call for women’s groups to take risks and be nimble with their strategies just to be heard.
Last month, the Global Fund for Women surpassed the $100 million mark in grant making - more than $100 million granted over 24 years. It says it has kept a keen eye on breakthrough groups in emerging democracies.
GFW gave first-time grants to partners like, The Voices of Libyan Women in Libya and Forum for Community Change and Development in South Sudan. Though relatively new, these groups collaborate with others in their regions, a hallmark of Global Fund grantees. Evidence and expertise prove that well-networked groups like these have a better chance of success in helping to shape the future of their countries.
In a statement, the Fund says that its grantee partners and advisers have told them that in emerging democracies, there are specific kinds of violence against women: sexual harassment and physical assaults during demonstrations and violence in detention and prison facilities.
“Sexual harassment is used as a strategy to intimidate and threaten women who want to be politically active. Women are being beaten and arrested, harassed, and subjected to virginity tests and body searches. They are being chased out of public squares and polling stations,” it says.
The example of the Libyan town of Zawiyah, some some 34Km from the Libyan capital, Tripoli has been mentioned. It said that this is where much of the fighting to overthrow the Gaddafi regime occurred.
It was also where 22-year old Dr. Alaa Murabit, co-founded The Voice of Libyan Women in August 2011. Within a very short time, with much enthusiasm and technical know-how, the group started a women’s centre, offering courses in women’s rights and economic empowerment.
They have also organised the One Voice Conference, an event that mobilised Libyan women and stimulated political dialogue. To promote the importance of women’s participation as candidates and voters in the upcoming elections, The Voice of Libyan Women also launched a YouTube campaign that was viewed over 3,200 times.
In late February 2012, Alaa Murabit, spoke to US policymakers about the need to make sure women were fully involved in the reconstruction of her country post-revolution. Here Ms. Murabit speaks about her concerns and hopes as a citizen for the future of her country. She calls on the women of her country to push to be involved in every aspect as Libya rebuilds.