Nasawiya, meaning Feminism in Arabic, is a feminist collective in Lebanon, engaging with issues that are core to Lebanese society – racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, capitalism, corruption, sectarianism and intolerance. What started as a small group of women’s rights activists has now rapidly grown into a national social movement. Farah Salka: ‘Most of our activists are aged 20-35, and together we own the collective. Our members include teachers, engineers, students, techies, artists, designers, both employed and unemployed. Diversity is our strength. We don’t have, nor want, a traditional structure with board, staff and volunteers. All 200+ members are equal and can take leadership in different forms.’
Since 2010, Nasawiya has worked within a coalition of 50 organisations lobbying Parliament to get a law passed to criminalise domestic violence and marital rape, ensuring the penal code is amended to include spouses as perpetrators. While this didn’t get passed, the political landscape has changed forever. Nasawiya galvanised a lot of support, including getting over 1,000 people on the streets, in a country where mobilisation has always been a struggle. More and more people are aware of women’s sexual rights and body integrity – whether in law, public perception, or in intimate relationships.
Nasawiya has a strong and vibrant presence in the new media. The organisation launched an on-line cartoon, ‘The Adventures of Salwa’, to combat physical and sexual harassment. To promote the use of technology among girls Nasawiya set up ‘Take Back the Tech’, a series of summer ‘girl geek camps’ where girls, aged 15-18, attended to learn about citizen journalism, making movies and websites and other digital skills. Farah: ‘We are radical, pushy and persistent!’
Nasawiya received a grant from Mama Cash in 2011.