We work to empower queer Palestinian and Arab women, and stimulate an alternative discourse that promotes the struggle for sexual rights and freedoms with a community-based and grassroots focus.
Aswat remains the only group in Palestine that is entirely composed of queer and trans women that directly works on issues related to Palestinian women’s sexualities from an intersectional and queer perspective. As a grassroots organization, we are part of the community of beneficiaries for whom we work. We involve the community of queer Palestinian women in all of our activities, and we design our projects based on their needs and well-being, as well as the gaps that exist in the knowledge and sovereignty of the wider Palestinian societies.
Our programs aim to provide services, training, knowledge and spaces for discussion and expression for LBTQI women and youth, teachers and school staffers, civil society activists, professional service providers and community leaders.
Through our Knowledge Production Program, we produce appropriate language and terminology in Arabic to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity, document and archive the narratives of LBTQI women and puts Palestinian queer voices on the forefront. Our Education and Training Program initiates discourses, and fosters queer and feminist activism, in addition to raising awareness. Through our Art and Cultural Activism, we engage groups of young Palestinian artists, mainly women and trans, to showcase their work and increase their public, and promote an alternative Palestinian art culture as a powerful tool to address and discuss sexuality issues within the community, and to organize on the grassroots level.
Legal and political discrimination hinders Palestinian women from developing their own discourse on sexual rights and freedoms. Aswat has to bypass a rigid system of Israeli laws to implement effective programs for sexuality education. At the same time, we deal with conservative stakeholders, and social and religious taboos that interfere with our work in the field. In the reality of Occupation, Colonization, Apartheid, and the geographical separation of Palestinians, Aswat contributes to offering an alternative to Israel’s Pinkwashing practices and Palestinian taboos regarding sexual freedoms and rights. By showcasing contextualized perspectives and positionalities from within Palestine and the region, or stemming from movements of queer resistance, it reaffirms the role of queer Palestinian resistance in the struggle for sexual freedoms and national liberation. At the same time, it highlights the importance of regional solidarity and collaboration by shedding the light on the intersectionality of regional struggles with the aim of advancing issues of sexual and bodily rights, and standing against occupation.
Aswat’s work is needed to help queer Palestinian women and trans be more at ease with their identity as both Palestinians and queers, and rally them around the centrality of queer liberation for a free and just society. In addition to raising awareness within Palestinian societies, our work ensures that community leaders, activists, artists, academics and service providers are in engaged in and mobilized around a critical dialogue about sexuality and the discourse of sexual orientation and gender identity.