Libyan women pioneers at a time of tough beginnings
The masculine character and traditional conservative features have always been two correlates that distinguished the Libyan personality and drew the features of the stereotypical image of Libyan society, but it does not seem fair, with the tangible change witnessed by the local social system, following the spread of educational institutions with horizontal distribution that enabled girls to study especially in rural communities, progression in the educational ladder, access to government jobs, and proof of merit, without any legal or legislative status that gives women a preferential advantage over men in the context of holding public jobs.
Gains have been achieved with the rapid and dramatic change of Libyan society, where women have found space for distinction and self-assertion, despite some restrictions and inhibitions inherited at the social level and linked to the idea of what is forbidden and prohibited, either for societal contexts or other religious contexts that have formed in their entirety, until recently, “taboos” that prevent approaching or bypassing them.
Remarkable women’s gains have recently been achieved during which women assumed high positions at the head of ministerial portfolios that would not have been achieved without those women who represented the avant-garde elite and the first struggle, as they defended their deserved presence and formed a beacon for subsequent generations headed by the pioneering “Khadija al-Jahmi” with the radio voice who accompanied the Libyan media in its first launch on Radio Benghazi in 1960, and she was a program presenter and news anchor, in addition to her literary presence and her defense of women’s rights that led her to establish the Libyan Women’s Union, to form with the presenter “Aida Al-Kabti”, who is the first news anchor on Libyan TV in 1968.
Another name Libyans remember proudly with the biography of the “Zayima Al-Baroni,” the daughter of the national symbol Suleiman Al-Baroni, who chronicled the path of the Libyan jihad and its decisive stations. Since she worked in the education sector as a teacher in 1950 until she joined the constellation of defending women’s rights with the establishment of the Women’s Renaissance Association in Tripoli in 1958.
The medical field and humanitarian work was also full of the names of Libyan women who proved their worth, headed by the internal medicine doctor “Olfat Al-Obaidi” and the pharmacist “Wedad Al-Saqzli”, who obtained membership in the Pharmacists Association and the British Royal Health Society, in addition to the prominent names and a group of educators and teachers who contributed effectively to the national programs and educational support for improving education and combating illiteracy, which was a chronic problem that Libya suffered from in its beginnings, with the illiteracy rate exceeding 90% during the fifties of the last century, and women constituted the vast majority of this percentage.
Names in a time of difficult beginnings, and a pioneering period that was not mentioned all the time, but it raised a serious question about the position of women in society and the size of the sacrifices that were made in order to open the field and prepare the ground for other women.
There is no doubt that the inherited social situation in Libya did not give women the space to prove themselves with the tyranny of the patriarchal culture and the opposition to any pivotal role for women in society.
Therefore, the intrusion of women into jobs and playing roles within society was an event in itself, which they paid its taxes at times and went beyond the traditional framework that sees that ” woman is in the house” and here is an early elite effort that the Libyan woman has reaped its fruits today.
Struggle accumulations created an acceptable reality revealed by numbers and statistics, as Libyan women today constitute 36% of the total number of workers in Libya, according to a statistic issued in 2019, an upward rate in which women register a presence in the public and private economic sectors with about 880,000 female and male employees despite their imbalance with the population In which the number of women and men is almost equal.
According to the statistics of the World Bank, the population of Libya is about 6.87 million, women constitute about 3.40 million, or 49.52%.
Pioneering steps for Libyan women immortalized their names in the history of the struggle, so others followed them, waiting for the struggle of women in Libya to culminate with a greater presence in the fields of political and diplomatic work, similar to their counterparts in the regional environment, with their possession of the tools of excellence and creativity.