As women living in a conflict affected area, sharing our stories is more important than ever before.

The co-founder of PS Hajer Almahdi

by Hajer Elmahdi

Because somewhere out there, someone needs that story. Someone, by reading that story will be a completely different person. That story may give them hope, or comfort, or the sheer sensation of not being alone.

In Project Silphium we aim to succeed this through blogging, snapchatting and use of social media.  We aim to teach women how to make use of these tools, how to take control over their lives and futures and to remind everyone that we’re here and we have something to say too.

As a social innovation, we started thinking of workshops we can do on our own.

The question was, what can we teach women?

I thought LaTeX!

When I started writing my scientific papers and reports, I came across this magical software known as LaTeX. LaTeX is widely used in writing scientific research and papers (and it’s so so much better than Word). To be honest, I was fascinated by LaTeX and I welcomed the challenge of learning it.

In the end, my echoing shouts and breakdowns at laptop’s screen, my wonders why PDF wasn’t generating correctly or my merely waiting for certain files to download (with the seriously dying internet) paid off.

My projects looked beautiful!

During this excitement period of learning something as fun and useful as LaTeX, I thought why not teach other women how to use this miraculous software? And that’s how we ended up setting a LaTeX workshop for first time ever here in Benghazi.

We used the same method to  set up WordPress workshop as we had done in Tripoli! I contacted Tatweer Research, and they welcomed the idea.

A mix of all ages and genders attended the workshop. We had engineers, university professors, pharmacists and employees from Tatweer Research itself.

Considering the current ongoing war in the city, I was baffled by their hope and will to learn and I was proud to be a part of this city and help in anyway I could.

Setting up this workshop, regardless of my current situation as an internally displaced person living in a war zone for almost two years now and studying Engineering in an elementary school with blackouts and fighter jets flying around, made me realize my full potential and what I’m capable of regardless of the situation.

The thing is, it’s not just me. I see this on a deep and profound level every day, in every corner, in my parents, my sisters, my friends and every single person standing in bank or bakery lines. Suffering through traffic and blocked roads to get basic life chores done. I see in them hope that can defeat dragons.

Letting the rest of the world experiencing the same feeling felt like something that has to be done!

Project Silphium went Snapchat!

Snapchat was for Libyan women the way to go in order to share their daily lives.

Project Silphium snapchat

We used #womeninlibya to cover LaTeX workshop and the reactions were overwhelming.

Our first Libyan woman who use the account was Nessren Gaddah. She took us touring throughout Tripoli. She bought fabric for her garden setting and shared with us mouth watering Libyan food. Nessren recently launched her startup Noon for Translation.

Next we traveled all the way to Jordan with Najla Al-Missalati, an engineer living and working in Benghazi to attend a workshop on Artificial Limbs, a project she’s been working on with a team of engineers for Tatweer Research.

After covering the Jusoor panel discussion about “women in workforce” taken place in Tripoli, #womeninlibya went back to Benghazi, with Nahla Boushnaf, a Libyan Blogger, English teacher and pharmacist to be.

#womeninlibya brought out all these amazing people and we’re sure there are still many more Libyan women to be featured in the upcoming days.

This story is part of a series menac publishes in cooperation with Project Silphium. The article was first published in Medium.com.

You can find the arabic translation of the article in Project Silphium’s page

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