Press release: Young women should be at the core of efforts to rebuild inclusive and lasting peace in Libya, according to UN Women and UNFPA

Date: Sunday, October 25, 2020

Tunis, 25 October 2020. As talks are underway to reach a political solution to Libya’s war and coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR1325), UN Women and UNFPA have highlighted the myriad obstacles facing young women in Libya and calls for their economic and political empowerment so they can contribute to their country’s future.  

Libya continues to struggle with political and economic turmoil that has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Conflict and gender-based discrimination have taken a terrible toll on Libyan women, limiting their economic, political and social opportunities. Young Libyan women wishing to contribute to their county’s peacebuilding and economic recovery efforts face many obstacles and deadly risks.

Available both in Arabic and English, UN Women and UNFPA’s joint policy brief Deepening Stabilization in Libya: Overcoming Challenges to Young Women's Participation in Peacebuilding summarizes some of the challenges facing young Libyan women and make recommendations to tap into their full potential to rebuild Libya’s social, economic and political life.

While Libyan women graduate from universities at nearly the same rate as men, their representation in the labor market lags far behind. 64 per cent of Libyan women are unemployed, and of those only 20 per cent describe themselves as fully employed. According to the World Bank, the labor force participation rate among Libyan women aged 15 and above is 28 per cent, compared to 79 per cent among Libyan men. Additionally, over half of employed women work in jobs ‘stereotypically’ reserved for them, mostly in the education and health sectors. In the private sector, women are grossly underrepresented, and are far less likely to be entrepreneurs or have high-paying jobs.

“Young women, no less than men, seek opportunities to improve their lives through education and employment. But because of their gender, Libyan young women have to surmount obstacles and barriers to achieve their goals. Exclusion from opportunities leaves women vulnerable to financial pressure, domestic violence and even radicalization,” said Asr Toson, UNFPA Representative in Libya.

“Women and girls are at the forefront of UNFPA’s programming and response in Libya. Providing clinical and psychosocial support to gender-based violence victims, helping their capacities to become economically self-reliant, providing access to sexual and reproductive health services and opportunities in various youth initiatives will pave the way for their social inclusion,” he added.

Additionally, young Libyan women lack meaningful political representation. While Libyan women vote at similar rates to men, they are half as likely to have ever participated in a public meeting. Sexual and gender-based violence, aggravated by conflict, internal displacement, informal justice mechanisms, and movement restrictions, deprive young women of opportunities to make their voices heard. When they venture into politics, they often face social backlash, threats, abduction and even assassination. Despite these serious risks, young women across Libya are increasingly participating in politics through voting, civil society activism and high-level ministerial positions.

“The lack of attention paid to young women's concerns in Libya is due largely to the lack of political representation of women in Libya’s politics and economy,” said Begoña Lasagabaster, UN Women Representative in Libya. “Political settlements that fail to include women are less likely to success in the long run. Libya and its partners should work to lift the barriers obstructing Libyan women, including young women, from realizing their full potential and contributing to their country’s peaceful and prosperous future.” 

The joint policy brief calls for Libya’s international partners to ensure the full and meaningful participation of -and support for- young women in all political, social, and economic programs. Special support should be provided to internally-displaced women and entrepreneurs who face unique challenges. It also calls on Libyan policymakers to integrate gender into the security, legislative, executive and judicial apparatus at all levels.

The two agencies also call on Libyan civil society to highlight women's success stories, train women in business and political skills, counter patriarchal narratives and advocate for policy changes.

Download the policy brief here.

Media Contacts:

Samer Abu-Rass – Samer.abu-rass(@)unwomen.org