“We share to connect. We share to find strength. We share to inspire.” -Khadeja Ramali
Khadeja Ramali knows the power of stories. Project Silphium was first born out of conflict, as a tool for peacebuilding and women’s empowerment in a post Arab Spring Libya. Co-Founder Khadeja sought to bring the conversation back to women, to create a platform for their voices and stories to be heard in their own community and beyond to the global community.
Project Silphium gave command of voice and storytelling back to women in Libya.
I first read about Khadeja’s work and volunteerism while researching a project for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Her inherent drive and creative outlook were immediately striking and her work fit the UN SDG 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.
Project Silphium depends on volunteers who bring their personal drive and experience to expanding the project’s reach. As volunteers come and go, Project Silphium has developed strategies to re-evaluate its platform. This ensures it remains accessible and relevant, growing from the contributions of each person who volunteers their time as either a community member or a team member.
Naturally, I was Intrigued and reached out to Khadeja.
EH: What was the driving force in your work?
KH: “I see spaces in Libya and worldwide controlled by gatekeepers. After I graduated I had a big appetite to work and be involved in different things, but I was faced with disappointment and demotivation in my environment.
I knew this wasn’t the way I wanted to go, so we tried to build something to circumvent the gatekeepers. One way a friend explains it is “bulldozing a gap in the wall for women to walk through,” with every woman that is able to walk through this gap in the wall she’s then able to help more women. I’m fueled to carry on because of this. These women decided to lead from below because they weren’t being supported from above.”
EH: When a situation arises that needs a contribution how do you answer that “What Now” question when taking that first step into action?
KR: “I remember reading about Judy Smith’s P.O.W.E.R technique and learning about Design Thinking, I tweaked these ideas to fit into things we deal with. First, I pinpoint the main issues, what resources are needed, what are the skills involved, who would be able to support us. Work through it: find ideas and suggestions.
Explore the options: Look into strengths/weakness of these ideas. Refine the Solutions: here we narrow down a few good solutions we all liked. Finally, mobilize: where the action happens and we start experimenting with solutions and binning them if they don’t work. At one point I was working full time and focusing on Project Silphium in the evening. In an environment like Libya where everything was falling apart, this work kept me sane. However, I wouldn’t romanticize the work, it’s long hours. I had to prioritize my well being and rely on others in my support system to help.”
EH: What are your dreams for the future?
KR: “To create different spaces for women to learn, network, build skills and gain confidence. Create documentaries about the amazing women we know. Have a political, digital, and media literacy program led by Libyan women for Libyan women. To have the freedom to chart my own path and support others in the process.”
Khadeja shares the stories of her role models with other women; the aunt who drove her car throughout her life while building a career and family. The car is a symbol of her aunt’s independence in Libya.
By sharing these stories at Sister-hood.com, Khadeja bolsters her own sense of independence even though she realizes, “Not everyone has these role models in their own families. The stories are out there – but we just don’t have access to them.”
So Khadeja continues to do what she can with the available tools. She works full time and spends her free time on this project, harnessing her creativity and experiences to build a solution. The internet provided a megaphone to elevate women’s voices in peacekeeping. She created this platform for women in Libya to share their stories, political perspectives, ambitions, and build community.
In late 2014 Project Silphium was born. As Project Silphium states in their bio, healing happens through storytelling, empowering women, educating on gender equality, and the occasional healthy rant!
Knowing online harassment was an inevitable obstacle they would face, Project Silphium structured the platform to provide security and sensitivity to empower Libyan women. They started slowly to build trust with a team of volunteers on the ground in Libya, attending events and also using the internet as a platform.
Project Silphium showcases stories on Snapchat and Medium. They also include training sessions for young women on the UN Security Council Resolution 2250, the first ever thematic resolution on Youth, Peace, and Security.
Khadeja is a key participant speaking on the connections women make in peacebuilding and the agenda for Youth, Peace and Security agenda.
Khadeja is Geophysicist student at Code First Girls, volunteer, and writer. She is actively pursuing new opportunities while interning at the London International Development Centre.
As a member of the Global Shapers Community, a global network of hubs developed and led by young people who seek to make a contribution to their communities, Khadeja continues to volunteer her voice as a change-maker.
I encourage you to follow Khadeja and Project Silphium. Consider the leaders in your community who volunteer their free time and ask yourself how you can add to the conversation.
Khadeja’s words may just inspire you to find meaning in the most unexpected places:
“We share to connect. We share to find strength. We share to inspire.”
Always seeking to be curious, brave, kind