Libya’s first female cabinet minister light up hope for more reforms

Tripoli: In a move that Libyan women are taking major pride in, Najla El-Mangoush, the first female cabinet minister in the history of Libya will take the oath as foreign minister next week.

El-Manqoush worked as a lawyer in criminal law and is a university professor in Benghazi. She holds a master’s degree in conflict and peace management from eastern mini knight University, USA, and a doctorate in conflict and crisis management from George mason university, USA. Al-Manqoush has its origins in the city of Misurata (west), but she was born and has lived for many years with her family in the city of Benghazi (east).

With the task of uniting institutions of the divided Libyan state and oversee the general elections in December, an UN-sponsored talks process mandated an interim headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.

The 75 Libyan delegates selected by the United Nations to participate in the talks have assigned to the government a commitment that 30 percent of senior positions will go to women, including in top cabinet posts.

In reality, however, women only occupy 15 percent of the positions in the new government, but the percentage will rise when deputy ministers are appointed, the prime minister said.

“It’s a starting point for a more complete representation,” said Elham Saudi, a lawyer and talks delegate.

Afia Mohamed, 34, a pastry maker in Tripoli, told Reuters: “I think this is a win for all of us women in Libya. I hope that this is the first step forward, which is for women to reach the head of government,” adding that she encourages the entry of more women into the political arena. She added that this percentage came as a result of “strenuous” efforts made by women, despite the existence of major disagreements on other political issues.

Najla will not only be the only female in the cabinet. She is accompanied by four other capable women, including Halima Abdel Rahman as justice minister, Wafaa Abu Bakr Muhammad Ali-Kilani as a minister of social affairs, Mabrouka Tovi Osman Aoki as a minister of culture and knowledge development, and Huria Khalifa Miloud Al-Tarmal as a minister of state for women’s affairs.