Feminists from the collective Nasawiya in Beirut, Lebanon, are tackling sexual harassment—including street harassment—with a large dose of creativity in their empowering campaign “The Adventures of Salwa.”
Who is Salwa?
Cartoon character Salwa, the organizers say, is “an ordinary Lebanese girl that has been selected to be the spokeswoman for the campaign,” and through Salwa, they aim “to say to women who have been subjected to harassment, that the first step to combat it, is to break the taboo and start talking about it.”
The campaign is also meant to challenge the reasons behind the harassment. On the Salwa site, Farah Kobaissy, the coordinator of the campaign says that in Lebanon, “Harassment is used in order to remind women that …Hay! You are violating the barriers set by the patriarchal system by entering spaces that are considered ‘male space’ such as work, street, education, public spaces.”
Salwa challenges such notions and a red purse she always carries represents her empowerment and the empowerment of all women.
What does the campaign entail?
There are many components of the campaign, from PSAs and blogging to workshops and handbooks. You can learn about it all on their website.
My favorite part of the campaign revolves around Salwa herself. There are several short PSAs and companion comic strips in which Salwa stops sexual harassers by whacking them with her purse. (Yes, I know, the ideal is to stop harassers in a non-violent fashion, but I’m okay seeing a cartoon act out the emotion that I’m sure many of us feel upon occasion when dealing with harassers.) In this PSA, Salwa stops a taxi driver!
Throughout September and the first week of October, Cinema City, a well known cinema in Beirut, is airing one of the Salwa PSA before films! How amazing is that?
On September 30, the campaign organizers will launch a booklet called, “Salwa’s Guide to Fighting Sexual Harassment.” Salwa will be at the launch event to sign copies! Everyone who attends—and then people who attend later events—will receive a red purse like Salwa’s and the purse will contain the booklet, a whistle, a DVD of Salwa episodes, a brochure, and a poster and stickers. Fun!
There is a companion blog called “Qaweme Harassment” (“Resist Harassment”) that allows people to share their stories and strategies for fighting harassers. A map shows where all of the stories come from.
Last, the campaign organizers hold discussions and workshops in the community and in October they will start giving lectures at universities across Lebanon.
I know this topic is pretty heavy and can get depressing in a hurry, so I really appreciate that the campaign is able to tackle the issue in an empowering and humorous way while not downplaying the seriousness of it. Congratulations to them on such an engaging campaign, and one that offers people so many ways to be involved!Share on Facebook