Ms Albayda Muftah Omar sews clothes for selling at her house in Tawargha. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

“I have two daughters who needed clothes, food, cleaning supplies… We did not have any source of income and I needed treatment. I couldn’t work. I lost my desire to live and my faith.”

Ms Albayda Muftah Omar was shot by random fire, and the bullet settled in her cheek. She had nine operations and still she was not totally recovered. She was unable to afford the treatment bills.

During the conflict that Libya experienced in 2011, the township of Tawergha was used as a staging ground for attacks on neighboring Misrata. As a result, 40,000 Tawergha residents were forced to leave their homes becoming displaced for over seven years.

“I was living a tragedy. I just wanted to end my live. I try to commit suicide twice to escape from this misery,” Ms Omar explained.

Ms. Amal Safar, Director of the Psycho-Social Support Center in Tommina, and Mr. Gerardo Noto, UNDP Libya Resident Representative at one of the training rooms at the center. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

In December 2015, during a meeting organized in Tunis by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), representatives from Misrata and Tawergha agreed on a road map with the right of the people of Tawergha to return to their land and homes.

A Joint Committee of representatives from both regions was created in January 2015 to establish the mechanism and conditions for a safe return. Since then, UNSMIL and UNDP have organized several meetings with the Joint Committee through the “Transitional Justice Project in Libya” with the objective of assisting the committee in the implementation of the agreed upon roadmap. In August 2016, the Misrata and Tawergha Dialogue Committee reached an agreement to operationalize the 2015 roadmap. The roadmap was endorsed by the Presidency Council in July 2017. 

UNSMIL and UNDP have been providing guidance to the Joint Committee on conducting a transitional justice process in line with international human rights standards.

Over 200 families have already returned safely to their home in Tawergha.

As part of its efforts to support psychological recovery from conflict for community members from Misrata and Tawergha, UNDP, under the Transitional Justice Project, helped establish a Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) center in Tommina, a town between the two cities.

“My sisters insisted me to join. They told me the center has psychological specialists and that I would feel better talking with them. I said to myself, well, I have nothing to lose, this can’t get worse,” said Ms. Omar.

With support from the Italian Cooperation Agency, UNDP rehabilitated an old school as the site of the MHPSS Center and supplied it with furniture and equipment, such as books, games and medical items. Then, it trained and mentored 35 local volunteers, including Health Ministry personnel and practitioners to run the center. Teams of three to four people were trained to identify most vulnerable persons in need of support and on how to respond to their phycological needs. The project also worked to empower youth and women to engage in assessment, design planning and monitoring of MHPSS.

“We help people from Misrata to think beyond what they consider an injustice, and we help people from Tawargha to go beyond their fears of people from Misrata,” said Ms. Amal Safar, Director of the Psycho-Social Support Center in Tommina.

The center also supports women from Tawergha and Misrata that were even afraid to sit together in the same room to rebuild their interactions through dialogue.

Young people from Misrata and Tawargha participate in a workshop at the Psychosocial Support Center in Tommina on the occasion of Youth International Day. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

“I was frustrated, so I decided to go to the center to receive psychological support,” Ms. Hifa Khayr from Tawerqa explained. “I felt the change since the first session.”

According to the first ever Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Situational Analysis in Libya conducted between November and December 2017 in seven locations covering three historical regions in Libya and commissioned by UNFPA, the heightened levels of GBV occur in communities that experience extreme situations, such as conflict or natural disasters.

The analysis also reveals that the most common types of violence in the Libyan society is marriage of individuals younger than 20 years old (49%); physical assault (31%), marriage of an individual against his or her will (31%) denial of resources and opportunities (27%), trafficking in persons (25%) and sexual violence (14%). In general, perpetrators are found to be close male relatives, such as spouses, fathers, and brothers, whereas most often, women (of all age) and children are found to be survivors.

 “I come back home and I told my husband that I wanted to attend a training at the center. He wasn’t happy about it,” said Ms Khayr.

Taysir Aljdyi from Misrata and Hifa Khayr from Tawerqa at Tommina center where they meet to prepare the clothes that they will sell later. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

Women at the center in Tommina study together, some of them even build partnership for joint businesses and social initiatives. Hifa Khayr from Tawerqa and Taysir Aljdyi from Misrata, are working together to establish a business and a charity providing clothing to the families of Tawerqa. Taysir is doing the process of collecting clothes in Misrata, whether new or used, and Hifa prepares it to be re-used and distributes them to the families of Tawerqa who returned to the city.

“I met Hifa in one of the activities in the center. The center is the gather point for us, explained Taysir. “Our common project provides her with a good income to rebuild her destroyed house. She is happy and now she is thinking of ways to develop and expand the initiative,” said Ms Taysir.

Ms Taysir owns a bakery, and she is a volunteer at the Psychosocial Support center in Tommina.

“I also give her some products from my bakery to sell them in Tawergha. I don’t get money for the products, but this help me to open a market of my products in Tawargha and help her to establish her own business,” she said. “I encourage any person to visit the center. They will find opportunities for self-development and for changing their status for better,” she added.

Young people from Misrata and Tawargha participate in a workshop at the Psychosocial Support Center in Tommina on the occasion of Youth International Day. Photo: © UNDP Libya/ Malek Elmaghrebi.

The center is facilitating reconciliation by serving as a common ground for both communities to meet.

“I was a prisoner in 2011. Now all I want is for Libya to move on towards a future full of security and stability. The center is part of our intention to reconcile. I am ready to forget the past and pursue peace and stability in Libya,” the Director of the Center, Ms. Amal Safar said.

“At the center, I was able to share my feeling. I felt comfortable. They rise my spirit… I felt like a queen,” declared Ms Omar. “Now I have a source of income from sewing and I can pay for my living and provide food and clothes for my daughters,” she kept on saying. “I would like to become a businesswoman and that is why I am studying to gain skills to develop my own project,” she added.

“The center gave me support and changed my life for good,” said Ms. Khayr. “I advise all the people from our community to visit it, especially women who have experienced this war, who may lack self-confidence, or feel weak. It will change their life,” she concluded. 

Young women from Misrata visit women in Tawergha as part of an activity of Tommina Center. Photo: UNDP Libya/ Malek Magrebi.

Text by Hilaria Espin, UNDP Libya Communication Specialist; photos by Malek Elmaghrebi, UNDP Libya Field Reporter; Interviews conducted by Fathia Emhemad, UNDP Libya Field Reporter.

 

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