Across Libya, the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI’s) partners have organized themselves to effectively address the COVID-19 crisis. In conflict-affected settings like Libya, responses from community stakeholders have bolstered and supplemented a limited central response. In Ajdabiya, NDI partner Nesaa Ra'dat (Pioneer Women), a CSO member of the “Not Before 18” campaign against child marriage, has done just that, forming a robust coalition to mobilize community resources to provide key services during this time. They’ve called this coalition the “Ajdabiya Youth Team to Raise Awareness and Volunteer Work.”
What started as a WhatsApp group meant to mobilize volunteers to respond to COVID-19 in their community has expanded rapidly to fill community needs, becoming one of the most preeminent groups involved in virus response in that community. On May 19, Huda Al-Sequri, leader of Pioneer Women and long-time participant in NDI activities, began recruiting volunteers to raise awareness and help to implement protection measures related to the coronavirus in their community. Broad community interest quickly led to great success, and the online messaging group became a multi-organizational coalition. The team is now composed of several organisations, namely: Helping Hand for Development, My Giving Country, the Al-Risala Association and the Youth League. As the group has risen to prominence in the community, it has attracted community leaders; the dean of the municipality of Ajdabiya, the director of the social affairs office, and the internal security director of the psychological support office have all joined the team.
“Through my experience with NDI, I developed and learned new skills like campaign management, team building and holding remote meetings,” Al-Sequri said. “I kept in constant contact with NDI throughout this process, to discuss any obstacles or ideas the team had to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.”
As the team grew its membership, its capacity to implement a wider range of activities grew as well. So far, they have distributed informational posters in highly-frequented public spaces, created awareness-raising television episodes on the Ajdabiya Channel, participated in awareness-raising programs on Ajdabiya’s radio channel “The Future,” as well as grown their own social media campaign. The mission of the group has remained constant through these periods of growth: bringing together volunteers to make a difference in their community during trying times. Al-Sequri’s leadership during this crisis is a direct application of trainings that NDI has provided to the “Not Before 18” group on how to organize in times of crisis, particularly how to set up a community support/aid group.
The team’s media presence has been particularly impressive in both its breadth and variety of media outlets. Their Facebook page, home to most of their outreach material, has received more than 1,600 followers, among them, the mayor of the Ajdabiya municipality and the head of the Psychological Support Office. Through the page, the team has organized street sterilization teams and called on local residents to stay at home. In addition to hosting public health-related content, the page has provided coverage of the group’s leadership as they advocate for positive local policy changes. Al Sequiri has also presented 10 COVID-19-related awareness raising episodes on the Gates of Goodness program on Ajdabiya’s local television channel, as well as the “Future” channel.
The success of the Ajdabiya team’s work has garnered government attention. After seeing the team’s successes through its robust media campaign, the Ministry of Social Affairs offered to provide the group with 7,000 dinars to cover the costs of posters and personal protective clothing. The impressive evolution of this initiative in Ajdabiya is an example of the positive impact that NDI trainings can have to bolster the capacity of community actors and empower them to take on leading roles in times of crisis. NDI is proud to work with such driven community leaders and will continue providing trainings to support innovative local efforts that contribute to positive public health outcomes during this crisis.
NDI's engagement with civil society organizations in Libya is implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS).
Author: Andrew Blunt is a Project Assistant with the MENA Team at NDI.