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Source: United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) |

United Nations (UN) Webinar: Involve Libyan women in decision making to ensure equal access to economic opportunity

Women in Libya are paid nearly three times less than their male peers and account for only 12 percent of property owners

TRIPOLI, Libya, April 14, 2024/APO Group/ --

More women must be included in economic decision making in Libya to accelerate economic progress and women's empowerment. 

This was the conclusion of a panel discussion the United Nations Support Mission in Libya organized to mark this year’s International Women’s Day.

Twenty women from the civil society sector participated in the webinar, which featured remarks from economic expert Hala Bugaighis, of the Jusoor Foundation, and representatives from UNSMIL and the United Nations Development Programme.

“There are no women in the Ministry of Economy’s senior management,” Burgaighis said. “The Minister only has one female consultant.”

The same is true for the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, she said.

“Decision making comes from a patriarchal perspective, so half of the population – women – deals with decisions that weren’t made by them,” she said. “We need to include the women’s perspective.”

One consequence of this, Burgaighis said, is policies that are not adapted to address the challenges facing Libyan women on the ground. 

“Libya’s legal framework, at least theoretically, grants women the right to equality and nondiscrimination,” Bugaighis said. “Despite this … there is no clear mechanism for career advancement, access to justice, especially with cases related to discrimination and inequality.”

Libyan law states, for example, that men and women should be paid the same for the same work, she said. It guarantees women the right to own property, permits them to open bank accounts, and protects them from losing their inheritance.

However, in practice, women in Libya are paid nearly three times less than their male peers and account for only 12 percent of property owners, she said. While unemployment remains high across all demographics, women are roughly twice as likely not to be working  –  despite the fact that unemployed women seek employment at a higher rate.

Sonja Sigmund, a Political Affairs Officer at UNSMIL, during the discussion, emphasized how systematic discrimination against and unequal opportunities for women, along with limited access to resources, not only restricts individuals from reaching their potential but also “hampers the overall prosperity and resilience of Libyan society.”

While Libya is considered an upper-middle-income county, owing to years of conflict and political instability, the COVID-19 pandemic, and natural disasters, the country’s GDP declined 54 percent between 2010 and 2024, she said, quoting World Bank statistics. 

“Unfortunately, unequal access to Libya’s wealth, lack of transparency, and accountability in its management and limited socioeconomic prospects – especially for Libyan women and youth – remain powerful drivers of political instability and insecurity in Libya,” she said.

Khadija Elboaishi, an advisor on equality between men and women for UNDP in Libya, said increasing the percentage of women in decision making positions is key to addressing these challenges.

“We all know that the presence of women at these levels is very important because it ensures the integration of women’s perspectives, women’s priorities, and their challenges,” she said.

For its part, the United Nations aligns its work in Libya with a strategy to ensure equality between men and women, she said. Fifteen percent of UNDP spending is directed at promoting and supporting women.

UNDP has programming to increase women’s participation in the technology sector by teaching computer programming skills and funding small women-led businesses – among other things.

“Whatever the subject of the project is, whether it is a development project, whether it is an energy project, whether it is a project to strengthen the capabilities of rule of law institutions, we must determine what the challenges (for women) are,” she said. 

This aligns with SRSG Abdoulaye Bathily’s call on International Women’s Day to “empower women to assume their rightful role as drivers of Libya’s transformative change.”

“Libyan women play a crucial role in shaping and advancing Libya’s political and economic landscape and their meaningful engagement in political, economic and reconciliation processes brings advantages to the entire society,“ he said.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).