Old Habits Die Hard|
The Libyan woman is the cornerstone of the family. In most cases she is the
one who takes care of the children's and the family's needs on a day to day
basis, even if she has a fulltime job. This is always considered her duty and
never given a second thought as something she deserves acknowledgement or
credit for. That's fine and perfect human behavior and is the case in many
Libyans have a long way to go before they start talking about women's rights
and discussing the international conventions and conferences for women issues
and how they affect the Libyan woman and family. We first have to acknowledge
the woman as a partner with a very important role in building the family and
the society. It is not about making women equal to men, by nature, women and
men are different, but that does not mean they are not equal partners in
building the society. The woman has a very vital and critical role in that as
much as the man and any civilized society that cares about its wellbeing and
that of its members recognizes that and acts accordingly.
Discrimination against women in the Libyan society is very visible and
requires immediate attention from all parties. A couple of recent incidents
happened this week and caught my attention, as a woman, and they confirm the
level of discrimination we suffer from. What makes it more infuriating is
that both acts came from people who live in the west, in countries where
women's rights are guarded and discrimination against them is forbidden by
The first example is the almanara.org's announcement of a lecture about the
future of Libyan families and Libyan women. One would think the obvious thing
to do is to invite a woman to discuss the issue from a woman's point of view.
But that's not the case. The guest or the speaker is a man and the woman is
being excluded for reasons only the organizers can explain. There are many
qualified and visible Libyan women that would add a lot by participating in
such discussion. Any one who follows the Libyan news sites can see many who
participate or are mentioned in various articles.
No one can claim that a man is not qualified to discuss issues pertaining to
women and family. But why brush women aside and act as if they could not
participate actively in matters that affect their lives and their families?
Is it our make up as a society with male dominance that diminished the
existence of women to this extent in the eyes of our other halves?
The second example is in Guma Elgumati's article titled "Mawsoo'at el-hijra
article&sid=5413).Going by the Libyan citizenship laws that were established half a century
ago, he defines "Libyans" as those women and men born to a Libyan father. And
I ask, how is a man considered more Libyan than a woman, to the extent that
his children are always Libyans, but the woman's children are not? Offspring
of a Libyan mother are no less Libyan than those of a Libyan father, even
their genetic make-up has the same Libyan content.
It is very disturbing to see a double standard of Libyan identity being
applied by people who live abroad and probably have children of their own.
What are the probabilities for Libyan girls abroad to marry Libyan boys down
the line? There are many examples already of Libyan women married to
non-Libyans and the number will be increasing with time because we are such a
small community. Does that mean we should let go of members of our society
and deprive them the right to be Libyan just because of their mother's
legitimate choice of partner? Also, it is common knowledge that the mother
has more influence in raising the children than the father. The question we
should ask ourselves is, do we want to keep our daughters and their offspring
as part of our community or do we want to sever them from us? If we do not
let them know and feel that they are as Libyan as anyone else, regardless of
their husbands' nationality, then we will lose them. They will not have the
sense of belonging to the Libyan community, and eventually will lose their
Libyan identity and will not pass it on to their children. For our own
survival, we should do all we can to strengthen the sense of Libyan identity
among the youth, not to exclude them and cut them off.
Improving a society and advancing it has many aspects that one should address
and deal with. The examples I mentioned might seem small by themselves but
they are samples of large problems that need generations to fix even if we
try. Social and behavioral issues are critical and they need to be addressed
as much as the political issues. Unfortunately, the majority if not all
Libyans are focusing only on the political factor and no attention is being
paid to the rest. Maybe it is the trend nowadays, and everyone wants a piece
of the pie when political change happens. At the end of the day a change is
only a beginning, but old habits die hard.