“My vision is to empower young girls through education. I believe women should have complete access to basic education as a fundamental human right. Libya desperately needs more educated women to fight against GBV issues [gender-based violence] and for women’s right issues. In short, I believe women must be educated to know what to say and what to fight for, because they are simply the best advocates for their rights.” – Amna Salak
Upon returning to Libya after participating in the Legislative Fellows Program, Amna started the “iRead Campaign”. Her project brought her passion for young women’s education to the most underserved population in her country: Refugees living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDB) camps outside of Benghazi (where Amna lives).
Due to her previous work with the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugee agency (UNHCR) agency, she was aware that many of the children living in these camps, and particularly the young girls, either did not have access to education or were not allowed to attend school. Her campaign, began with a door-to-door interview of every family in the three IDB camps around Benghazi (a total of 299 interviews). A team of ten volunteers participated asking each family about their children’s attendance in school and any obstacles they face.
Her Questionaire asked questions like:
- whether the families felt it was safe for the girls to go to school
- was there a lack of transportation
- did they have the official documents needed to register their daughters
The 299 surveys were completed in 3 different camps and gave unexpected results.
- The positive outcome was that people were open to the idea of sending their girls to schools
- The negative outcome was that because the girls lacked the official papers, they were not allowed to go to school.
Armed with this information, Amna began the second part of her campaign. She used the statistics and information to craft a formal report and series of recommendations for the Libyan Minister of Education. She also raised awareness about the needs of these families both in and outside the camp. She has produced and distributed flyers around the camps about the value of girls’ education and is also pushing for the schools to allow girls to participate, even if they are missing their paperwork (a key reason that many do not attend school). In her final report to Legacy on this project Amna writes,
“I noticed that people in the camps have become more open to the idea of sending their girls to school and I consider this as a positive outcome. Many girls can’t go to school because they don’t have the official papers, all I can do [to address this] is make sure to continue this project, my next step will be pushing on the schools to make a special case for girls with lost papers so that they can resume their education.”
During this project Amna faced many obstacles, from security concerns at the camps and difficulties getting permission to enter the camps, to ongoing challenges with her own family’s concern for her safety and the propriety of doing this type of activist work. Despite these challenges, and through her perseverance, Amna’s project was a great success. Her ongoing social media campaign can be found online at: Facebook iRead and Twitter iRead project
The Legislative Fellows Program is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and administered by Legacy International with assistance from the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress, and multiple in-country partners from the MENA region.