As you’ve probably become accustomed, Monday brings you a new interview with one of our trainers. This week, we had a little chat with Asma Khalifa, a Libyan activist and researcher, co-founder of Amazigh Women Movement, a think/do tank that is working on gender equality and research on the indigenous women of Libya and North Africa. Let’s see what Asma had to say!
Hi, Asma! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am an activist / researcher specifically on peace, conflict transformation, feminism and youth empowerment, focusing mainly on Libya but working on projects in Syria and Yemen, currently living in Istanbul as I finalize my thesis ” the social movement in Libya”
How did you start working in the field of peace?
I was working on women’s issues prior to 2011, I didn’t identify it as peace work then. then from 2011 I was involved with various youth campaigns and was working at a Youth Centre. I was interested in studying peace and only started to call my work “peace work” in 2014.
Could you tell us a bit more about the work you’re doing in Libya, Syria and Yemen?
in Libya: at moment just finished two projects – women’s participation in local governance and fighting GBV, ad Libyan young peace builders: a capacity building project for you activists in Libya. I am also a consultant to a local NGO in their new project (For peace in Libya) and working closely with another on the rise of child marriage issue, currently leading a study on it.
I am also researching the Libya peace talks and contributing a chapter to a case study.
In Syria: I finalized recently a project on documenting sexual violence in the region, now am researcher, interviewing Syrian women refugees in Istanbul for a book project that sheds light on the multicolored/ diverse and the ” human” story of Syrian women rather than “the refugee” stereotype.
In Yemen: I am a member of volunteer team of researchers, investigating currently the airstrikes on Yemen.
What does peace mean to you?
Peace for me is plural and so “peaces” – it’s the ability to feel nature as it synergies within me, which I interpret as having the space to co-exist with all beings.
Why do you think it is important for young people to be involved in promoting peace and non-violence?
Not only do youth make up the vast majority of populations in MENA, which is a huge un-invested resource, but youth are the fresh stream in the veins of every structure. We have the energy, creativity and drive for change; we have different perspectives, which enrich every discipline. Everyone was a youth once, and I am sure they all wanted to find a purpose or a space to express or get involved. Creating that space which will generate positive outcome if nourished is, I think, vital to the survival of healthy societies.
What are you planning to deliver this year at the Global Youth Rising? Why do you like this theme, what makes it exciting to you?
I’m planning to deliver local methods in resolving conflict (a conflict transformation topic), it is somewhat a new idea, derived from the need to translate all these theories and peace work in local contexts in MENA. People have misperceptions and are skeptical of “foreign” ideologies in their societies, but giving them something they relate to and is part of them they can accept more easily “the change”.
I will also be running a workshop on gender’s role in counter violent extremism. War and violent extremism affect women and girls differently. It hinders their participation in public life, therefore obstructing the development of the entire community. The lack of women in peace and CVE processes is one of the main reasons why these processes are ineffective and failing. CVE needs also to start tackling the recruitment of women in extremism and its consequences.
Bjorn Ihler and I will also be delivering a workshop on cyber security for activists, giving vital information on what it means to stay safe online.
And finally: A message for the young people out there who are considering joining us…
I know you are looking at all these goals and slogans with dismay and un-dared hope, I know how you feel, but we have tried everything else, we can’t we give peace a try? Why can’t we learn and grow and reflect that on our surroundings? Even if it’s a tiny speck of change, together we can make it a current.