It’s solely three phrases on a T-shirt or embroidered on a denim jacket in Palestinian designer Yasmeen Mjalli’s assortment, however they carry a strong message: “Not your habibti”, or darling.

She sees the garments as serving to empower Palestinian girls going through unwelcome male consideration in public.

“When a girl is uncovered to a lot harassment on the road, she begins to decorate to guard herself, to cover herself versus expressing herself,” the 22-year-old artwork historical past graduate says, leaning in opposition to the counter of her store in Ramallah within the occupied West Financial institution.

On materials of muted colors and on canvas luggage from her BabyFist label, she locations messages in English and Arabic inside drawings of flowers and different designs.

“Each rose has its revolution,” one says.

Mjalli grew up in the US, the place she lived along with her Palestinian mother and father.

She began portray slogans on her personal garments when the household relocated to the West Financial institution and he or she discovered herself going through a special actuality.

“I’ve skilled issues like feedback, actually uncomfortable stares, the type that make you’re feeling very violated,” she mentioned.

“I’ve been assaulted within the streets, individuals touching me,” she provides, catching one tattooed arm in her different hand to imitate being grabbed.

In August 2017, she launched her first assortment and some months later opened the Ramallah store to enrich her current on-line gross sales.

Made in Palestine

“It’s not just like the T-shirt goes to cease harassment,” she says.

But it surely’s “a reminder that you’re a part of one thing greater that’s working to empower girls and to provide again indirectly and that’s making an attempt to have this dialog that challenges all of those constructions which we’re victims of too”, she provides.

The aim, Mjalli says, is to create a group.

Utilizing Instagram, free workshops in her store and public locations the place she typically installs herself with a typewriter, she provides Palestinian girls the liberty to specific their emotions and inform tales they can’t share elsewhere.

She donates round 10 p.c of her fashion earnings to an area girls’s group.

One challenge she funds despatched a health care provider and volunteers into colleges to show Palestinian women about menstruation, a topic nonetheless largely taboo.

Whereas defining herself as a feminist, Mjalli says that her combat in opposition to harassment of ladies is unconnected to the #MeToo motion.

“I don’t suppose it’s associated despite the fact that it occurred on the identical time,” she mentioned, although acknowledging that the motion gave her personal efforts a lift.

“It’s a really American and it’s a really white feminism, and it’s not what we’re doing right here.”

All BabyFist clothes are made within the Palestinian territories.

Jackets are sewn in Hassan Shehada’s Gaza workshop.

Among the many stitching machines buzzing below florescent lights, Shehada reveals a denim jacket embroidered with “Not your habibti”.

“I’m proud that ladies put on the fruits of my labours and I’m additionally very proud that they’re labelled ‘Made in Palestine’,” he says.

Combat in opposition to occupation

Up to now three months, he has made 1,500 objects for BabyFist.

It was a breath of recent air for Shehada’s enterprise within the Gaza Strip, below an Israeli blockade for greater than a decade and with endemic excessive unemployment.

“Working with BabyFist has given me again hope,” he says, including that it has fulfilled a dream of exporting to Europe.

However manufacturing in Gaza comes at a price.

Israeli restrictions imply jackets have been held up for weeks when the land crossing by way of Israel was closed as a consequence of mass Palestinian protests and clashes alongside the fence, Mjalli mentioned.

“The border was closed indefinitively and we couldn’t get something in or out,” she mentioned. “It’s a continuing battle.”

She says that round 40 p.c of her gross sales are made within the Ramallah retailer and 60 p.c on-line, largely to the Palestinian and broader Arab diaspora.


Not everybody, nevertheless, is a fan.

Mjalli has come below hearth from conservatives, who say she attracts consideration to girls’s our bodies by designing garments that carry provocative messages.

Her criticism of some points of Palestinian society has additionally raised the hackles of those that imagine that the battle in opposition to Israeli occupation is the one reliable public marketing campaign.

For her, the combat for Palestinian independence and campaigning for girls’s rights are intertwined.

“The occupation robs males in our society of any sense of management, any sense of masculinity which in flip impacts girls’s rights,” she says.

For Mjalli, there have been “already two or three generations of ladies which have needed to undergo whereas we are saying: ‘OK, you may wait.’“

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First Revealed: Jan 16, 2019 16:52 IST


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