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Palestinian designer empowers her women

China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-16 09:08
Palestinian designer Yasmeen Mjalli holds one of her T-shirt designs with the slogan "Not your habibti (darling)," as a ready-made retort for cat calls, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan 24, 2018. [Photo/IC]

RAMALLAH, Middle East - It's only three words on a T-shirt or embroidered on a denim jacket in Palestinian designer Yasmeen Mjalli's collection, but the words carry a powerful message: "Not your habibti", or darling.

She sees the clothes as helping empower women facing unwelcome male attention in public.

"When a woman is exposed to so much harassment on the street, she begins to dress to protect herself, to hide herself as opposed to expressing herself," the 22-year-old art history graduate said, leaning against the counter of her shop in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

On fabrics of muted colors and on canvas bags from her Baby-Fist label, she places messages in English and Arabic inside drawings of flowers and other designs.

"Every rose has its revolution," one reads.

Mjalli grew up in the United States, where she lived with her Palestinian parents.

She started painting slogans on her own clothes when the family relocated to the West Bank and she found herself facing a different reality.

In August 2017, she launched her first collection and a few months later opened the Ramallah shop to complement her existing online sales.

Made in Palestine

"It's not like the T-shirt is going to stop harassment," she said. "But it's "a reminder that you are part of something bigger that is working to empower women and to give back in some way and that is trying to have this conversation that challenges all of these structures which we are victims of too", she added.

The goal, Mjalli said, is to create a community.

Using Instagram, free workshops in her shop and public places where she sometimes installs herself with a typewriter, she offers Palestinian women the freedom to express their feelings and tell stories they cannot share elsewhere. She donates around 10 percent of her fashion earnings to a local women's group.

While defining herself as a feminist, Mjalli said that her fight against the harassment of women is unconnected to the#MeToo movement.

"I don't think it's related even though it happened at the same time," she said. She acknowledged, however, that the movement gave her own efforts a boost.

All BabyFist garments are made in the Palestinian territories.

Agence France-Presse

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