Saturday, June 23, 2018

Protestors march in Ramallah against street harassment


By Ruth Regan - March 10, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [women‘s rights] [protests]

It doesn’t take a large number to get noticed. For the couple dozen protestors – men and women, high school girls and boys and even a handful of young people under ten – who marched through the streets of Ramallah the day after International Women’s Day, small numbers didn’t matter. 

Little girls who began the march shyly gripping their signs wound up marching at the front with emboldened looks across their faces.
 
Under the hashtag #PressforProgressPalestine, the women’s march invited women and men to march for issues important to them, but listed honour killings, women in the workplace, street harassment and education instead of marriage as among the topics it focused on.
 
It was the first protest for many of the marchers, such as tenth graders Nour Odeh and Hania Mahmoud who are producing a magazine against street harassment at their school.
 
“Most female students from my school are harassed all the time, on a daily basis, when they walk around the [town centre],” Odeh described.
 
“Men think that the female students are an easy target.”
 
The girls said that the harassment can start as young as sixth grade.
 
“They [harassers] don’t really differentiate,” Odeh said.
 
Odeh feels that street harassment has become normalised.
 
“A lot of students say 'it’s okay, it’s fine, we go through that, it’s just a phase, it’s normal’. But it’s really not.”
 
The march wound from the City Hall, through Ramallah Tahta, along Rukab Street to Manara Square and then on towards parliament, stopping traffic and bringing falafel vendors curiously out of their stores along the way.
 
Yasmeen Mjalli, co-organiser of the march, holds a sign with her Not Your Habibti slogan, around which she has campaigns against street harassment and built her clothing brand, BabyFist.
 
The chanting did not cease from the moment it begun to the end of the march some 35 minutes later, repeating in Arabic the words “Burned by my society, Freed by my voice” as well as “Not Your Habibti,” the phrase coined by Yasmeen Mjalli, one of the organisers of the march.
 
A man passing by in a suit stopped to briefly join the protestors.
 
“We need more female leaders!,” he told the march. “I’m not your habibti!” he joked. “You guys are amazing. This is exactly what we need,” he told them more seriously.
 
When the march approached parliament, the Palestinian Authority police told them to stop and directed the filming crew not to film them.
 
The protest was forced to turn around and return to Manara Square.
 
But they didn’t cease the chanting.
 
The protestors described feeling brave and bolstered by the end of the event.
 
“If we don’t talk about it, no one would ever think about it,” said Zina Hamed, in ninth grade, for whom it was her second protest.
 
“We’re saying 'Not Your Habibti’, telling them they can’t stare, we’re not theirs.”
 
“We’re even looking at people in the face, like in the eyes,” said co-organiser Yasmeen Khawaja as she marched down Rukab [Main] Street.
 
“I dunno, we’re usually walking here and either getting hit on or whatever it is, and now we’re actually doing the yelling,” she said.
“I feel like everyone feels strong.”
 
“I feel empowered, like I just took back the streets,” agreed Mjalli at the end of the march.
 
“For every man that’s ever looked at you, I looked him in the eye!” enthused one of Yasmeen’s younger sisters.
 
“Yes, I feel in control,” said another.
 
“It can only grow from here,” commented observers at the end of the event.
 

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