RNW Media’s well-established Huna Libya platform has launched a new sub-section focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Alongside providing young Libyans with evidence-based information, it will also tackle human rights issues such as gender equality, gender-based violence, harassment and more. It aims to provide a safe space for discussing such issues and sharing real stories while also offering advice and correcting commonly held misconceptions around SRHR and gender rights.
Libyan society is highly conservative on sexual issues and the Huna Libya team are very aware that they will need to tread carefully to avoid backlash. This awareness is reflected in their choice of a name for the new section which reflects the need for discretion around taboo and sensitive topics. After much thought the name chosen was Damma wa Shadda. It’s difficult to translate the Arabic directly – the terms Damma and Shadda refer to diacritical marks (symbols used to enable pronunciation) in the Arabic language but also have a second meaning. Damma is also the word for hugging or embracing while Shadda is the word for tightening, used here to refer to the act of violence and abuse. This name reflects the way the content will focus on both positive aspects of SRHR and the damaging effects of sexual and gender-based violence (GBV).
A welcoming space
Damma wa Shadda will cover four main themes: love and relationships, GBV, pregnancy and childbirth and youth health and adolescence. Despite the difficulties, the Huna Libya team are committed to the new initiative says project coordinator Reema Hamidan:
“Damma wa Shadda is more than a subsite, it came because of the felt need for trusted information we see around us as Libyan youth. Youth lack spaces and resources to put their unanswered questions, to share their stories and to understand their differences, especially when it comes to their private and personal lives, and what society find as a taboo. Damma wa Shadda is the first Libyan platform to discuss openly relationships, gender norms, reproductive health, GBV and other topics that touch the questions and ideas Libyan youth cannot usually find a welcoming space to express.”
Tackling shame and stigma
Damma wa Shadda’s focus on gender equality and GBV is a response to the current situation in Libya. The country has one of the highest Gender Inequality Index scores in the world, ranking 110th out of 189 countries. According to UNICEF, domestic violence, rape and other forms of gender-based violence inside and outside the home in Libya are considered private matters that carry a great deal of shame and are rarely discussed publicly. Due to the harmful gender stereotypes and social stigma faced by women, fear of backlash, lack of a functioning government and a weak legal system, GBV is widespread but also under-reported, meaning perpetrators go unpunished. Huna Libya has now entered into a collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund in the country (UNFPA Libya) to raise awareness of different forms of GBV and promote rights of young women and girls.
Damma wa Shadda will create and distribute content for its online channels (website and social media) to raise awareness and challenge negative norms. Joint campaigns will also be developed to tackle specific issues. The collaboration with UNFPA Libya builds on the successes of last year’s “UNFPA Libya 16 days of activism against GBV”, in which Huna Libya served as the focal online media arm of the campaign. The 2019 campaign reached more than 2 million people in Libya, generating 40, 000 post clicks and 16,000 reactions and comments.
Starting in July, Huna Libya and UNFPA Libya will tackle a range of themes, starting with child and forced marriage. Other topics include domestic violence and Intimate Partner Violence, Gender Equality in the Libyan context, freedom of choice for young people, the particular problems facing Internally Displaced Persons and online harassment of women and girls. There will also be another joint campaign including online and offline activities to mark the international 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence which runs from November 25 to December 10.