'' I have the opportunity to attend for the first time a training session along with women from all social components of Sebha. It is very interesting experience as I am learning a lot from them,'' said Ms. Kareema Baznaka, civil society activist and student at Sebha University, Psychology Department, during an event organized by Fezzan Libya Organization (FLO) at Al-Akaber Centre for Women Literacy in Sebha.
Sebha, and the Fezzan region in southern Libya in general, have been affected by the prolonged crisis caused by national instability, civil war, and the political fragmentation that occurred in the country since 2011 which led to severe damage in the social fabric, economic difficulties, and increased tension between local tribes.
Al-Akaber Centre is one of Ministry of Education's subsidiaries in the south that was built as literacy and vocational training for women. ''It was established in 2007, and started with three classes for literacy and two groups for memorizing the Holy Quran, and the number was more than 50 members in the evening shift only,'' declared Ms. Rabiaa Muhammed Yusuf, Director of the centre.
'' Since 2007, the center provided trainings in first aid in collaboration with the Libyan Red Crescent. It also set up a training course for kindergarten teachers in cooperation with teachers from the College of Education in Sebha,'' Rabiaa added.
Before UNDP’s intervention, the center lacked adequate maintenance and needed urgent utilities repair and additional space to provide decent learning environment for the trainees.
Boosting job opportunities for women in Sebha
Led by national and local institutions and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from 13 international partners and the Government of Libya through the Ministry of Planning, the Stabilization Facility for Libya (SFL) completed renovation of Al-Akaber Centre for Women Literacy.
The SFL provided it with a number of sewing stations, a power generator, a modern kitchen for teaching cooking, furniture for a meeting room and five classrooms and air conditioners.
''I did not expect the change to be this transformative. The rehabilitation motivated me and my colleagues to think about adding new activities that will empower women in Sebha,'' stated Rabiaa.
After renovation, the center accommodates more than 100 students, most of them studying in the evening shift.
''We are now helping our students to improve their skills in various vocations including cooking, making pastries, knitting and embroidery and boost chances to get decent jobs on the local market,'' Rabiaa explained.
New opportunities for social cohesion
The newly renovated Al-Akaber Centre is not only giving chances for women to acquire new skills and increase chances to get jobs,but is also offering a space where women from different social components meet, discuss and contribute to forging local peace processes.
"What motivated me to participate was to break the barrier for women in my community and encourage them to join activities carried out by civil society organizations in Sebha," declared Kareema. "The first day, I was alone from Tebu Community. Today, we are five and we are ready to teach other members of our community what we have learnt here," she added.
"Al-Akaber Centre provided us with the appropriate working environment to hold training sessions," said Ms. Israa Al-Sanussi, project manager at FLO.
"I am here at the Al-Akaber Centre learning how to talk with women from other tribes and how to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue. I did not know that women of some tribes could reach this place. Today, women from different tribes are sitting together and talking to each other," stated Ms. Mabrouka Hussein Issa, a resident of Manshiyya neighborhood in Sebha.
"Our goal is to equip women with skills of dialogue and negotiation, so that they can have a role in reconciliation and community coexistence. Women have a great influence on their children and husbands and can play a pivotal role in the field of community stability in Sebha," explained Israa Al-Sanussi.
"Transferring what we have learned here to other women in my community will strengthen social cohesion and will build for sure bridges of trust," stated Kareema.
"We are working to overcome all that is dividing us. I am optimistic and hope that the future will be better in Sebha. I thank UNDP as well for fixing this special women’s space in Sebha," Mabrouka declared.
"Renovation of Al-Akaber Centre is the most important support we received for the last couple of years. We are very grateful for this achievement," stated Rabiaa Muhammed Yusuf, Director of the Centre.
"We are happy because we are seeing a change that serves real stability in the municipality, and that will have a positive impact on all components and spectrums of the community, and we hope to see more projects that serve residents in the municipality, indicated Mr. Abu Bakr Jamaa Bashir, member of the Sebha Municipal Council.
"Today, Al-Akaber centre is no more an institution for one neighborhood, but rather a forum that gathers women from all parts of the municipality," Kareema concluded.
Through the Stabilization Facility, UNDP renovated seven educational institutions, and five medical clinics in Sebha. The SFL has also delivered various equipment including 35 submersible pumps for water sector, 30 generators for water sector, mortuary freezers for Sebha health sector, an ambulance for Ghodwa clinic, two ICU ambulances as part of Covid-19 response, 12 submersible pumps for sewage sector, three sewage trucks, and 2000m High Voltage power cables for Sebha Airport. It also built a western water well and connected it to the public network in Ghodwa, 70 km south of Sebha.
Ongoing activities include renovation of UNESCO library, Ghodwa School, Tadamon Clinic and installation of solar streetlight system.
Future support will include rehabilitation of Naseriya Stadium, Youth and Women Training Center, two schools, Abdelkafy Physical Therapy Center and supply of equipment for health facilities.