Student Peace Award goes to Libyan activist Hajer Sharief

23 year old Hajer Sharief from Libya have been awarded SAIH’s and NSO’s Student Peace Award of 2017. Shareif has worked to increase participation among women and youth in peace reconciliation processes in Libya and the world at large. Her work is far from risk-free.

«Hajer Sharief is a wonderful example of students rising up for human rights and democracy. Her enormous courage and ability to create change is of great inspiration for students in Norway and all over the world», says Inga Marie Nymo Riseth, leader of SAIH and of the peace award committee, and Marianne K. Andenæs, leader of the Norwegian Student Organization, in a press release.

After the start of the Arabic Spring and the breakout of Libya’s civil war Sharief has, with great resistance, worked for youth’s and women’s rights by promoting their participation in peace reconciliation processes in Libya. She har initiated dialog and meetings between different affiliations/groupings in the country, and has been a promoter for projects in relation to the UN Security Council’s resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, and resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

The great resistance faced by Hajer and other female activists appears to be rooted in the traditional view, shared by various groups, of women’s role being in the home. Then it becomes unpopular when women takes on public roles, and it has gone so far that female activists have been killed. This view of women appears to have worsened after the removal of Moammar Gaddafi. But let´s get back to Sharif.

Sharief’s work

She is project manager of a project called 1325 Network Libya, a network administered and financed by Together We Build it, an organization she has co-founded. 1325 Network Libya comprise of 22 civil society organizations, primarily women’s groups. They meet to work specifically for women, peace and security. On the national level they work to raise awareness regarding the inclusion women in peace reconciliation, and work internationally to include women in peace negotiations and the national dialogue that goes on. In an interview given last year Hajer requests that women needs to be given greater space in political and diplomatic dialogues.

Vinner av Studentenes Fredspris 2017 Hajer Sharief, med tillatelse fra Studentenes Fredspris
With permission from the Student Peace Award

In the same interview she tells about a friend who was killed, before the age of 18, because he was fighting for democracy and development in general. When he was killed she realized that the work they were doing were having an influence, and that by killing him, the perpetrators acknowledged that they had the power to make a change. This has been part of motivating Hajer’s work.

Something that can further contribute to an understanding of the motivation of Hajer’s work is a mail korrespondance between herself and Fatima Zaman in the UK. Through the Kofi Annan Foundation and Together We Build It Hajer has come in touch with other women working for the same cause. In the mail correspondance Hajer and Fatima share their everyday experiences and give a glimps of the women’s point of departure of motivation and inspiration for their work.

Resolution 2250 and 1325

The two resolutions entails how women and youth to a larger extent should be included in peace reconciliation processes, peace negotiations and political processes. These are processes that have often excluded women and youth’s experinces of, and opinions about, acts of war and the path “out of them”. Due to Hajer’s work on these issues, Ban Ki-Moon appointed her this year to become an expert for the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, mandated by resolution 2250.

I guess there is little left to do say than hats off to this lady. Her work is impressive. If you should want to learn more about NSO and SAIH’s Student Peace Award, their work, and/or want to contribute to the work of youth and women’s rights, the following pages might be of interest.

Author: Irene Tollefsen