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Palestinian Designer Yasmeen Mjalli Is on a Mission To Empower Women Through Fashion

As women across the world continue to share stories and offer support to one another via the #MeToo movement, one Palestinian designer is creating her own more local brand of female empowerment. Yasmeen Mjalli, the 21-year-old founder of BabyFist, a line she describes as a social movement for gender equality in Palestine and the Arab region as a whole, is sewing up a storm with her latest creations, such as a denim jacket with the words “Not your habibti,” a response to unwanted attention and harassment.

Having studied art history in the United States at the University of North Carolina, Mjali now runs workshops in Gaza and the West Bank making T-shirts, hoodies and jackets, according to Independent. The young designer started painting slogans on her own clothes when her family relocated to the West Bank and she found herself facing increased sexual harassment, from comments, to being grabbed and touched, to uncomfortable stares that made her feel “very violated.”

After creating the “Not your habibiti” jacket, Mjalli posted a photo of the piece online last year for International Women’s Day, a move which garnered her a significant number of buyers. For a while, she focused on buying and embellishing second-hand jackets that she eventually sold online. Finally, in August last year, she established BabyFist – a unique fashion line that mixes flowers and other designs with words in English and Arabic – and she also opened a shop in Ramallah a few months after that.  

According to Arab News, Mjalli acknowledges that the clothing line by itself is not going to stop harassment but it acts as “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.”

Mjalli not only focuses on creating socially conscious fashion items, she works on creating a community as well. Aside from holding workshops that encourage women to share their stories, she donates around 10 percent of her fashion earnings to a local women’s group, and she funds projects such as one that sends out doctors and volunteers to schools to teach Palestinian girls about menstruation.

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