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To the next generation of Libyan girls
If you were to ask me how I wrote this article, I would tell you sincerely that I stared at a blank page for days. I would write a couple of words, and then delete every one of them. I questioned every word I wrote, because each one is a responsibility. I pictured myself speaking to every one of you.
I can’t really remember when I discovered my passion for women’s rights. I think the way women are degraded in my society is what made me choose to fight for this cause. Some say that we are exaggerating the problem – but we are not. Girls and women are suppressed by social barriers which were created by men. Many families are still dominating their daughters and wives in the name of Islam. This is an excuse that has been used for too long.
My heart is filled with joy when I see the accomplishments of so many Libyan women and young girls, now working in various fields, and how they are changing the expectations which have been imposed upon them by society. The fight goes on. We are still in the early stages; but I am sure we will not stop.
I want you to acknowledge your worth. You are free human beings and most importantly, you have rights. You have rights to an equal education and access to employment. You have the right to do what you want, without labels and stop signs in your way. They can’t force you into marriage. Don’t let anyone tell you the opposite. Don’t let them step on you and your dignity. They can’t draw your path, or put you inside the borders of shame.
You have no expiration date. Don’t let them fool you into an early marriage so you can have children early, or by telling you that your chances of marriage get lower year after year. You can study art, literature, astronomy, psychology, and anything else you want to study. There are no limits for your dreams. You can fall in and out of love; love is beautiful. Men fall in love too, but they’re too afraid to let it show. Don’t believe them when they tell you it is forbidden and should be kept secret.
We will pass the baton to you, and you will pass it to generations to come. We will pass on the sacrifice, strength, and determination of so many other women who share the same passion. Women are a force of strength and determination. This mass of power will increase. Society will try to bring you down, just as it did to my generation – but this means that they are afraid. Afraid is good, because it means you are winning. The baton we hold is the flame of hope and sacrifice.
I hope this letter will be read by many girls in the future and I hope it inspires them to carry on this legacy and fight, to believe in themselves and to stand up for their rights.
Malak Altaeb is an Environmental Policy Masters student at Sciences Po University in Paris, France. She has a bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Tripoli in Libya. She participated in two exchange programs in the United States of America; the first one was Space Camp 2010, and the Middle East Partnership Initiative MEPI 2015. She has participated in civic society projects in different fields, such as youth and women’s empowerment, climate change, and art. She is now a member of the Libyan Youth Climate Movement LYCM. She is a blogger and has written for different domains and magazines. She has written for sister-hood magazine, climate tracker, Libya's Herald, Libyan Express and Libya investment. She is an advocate for women’s empowerment, youth, education and climate change.