Our large scale social change efforts harness grassroots as well as institutional power to advance positive change in relation to gender and sexual issues amongst influential civil society institutions, youth and students, news media, and cultural organizations. These initiatives provide Palestinian society with the space to engage in a responsible public debate, aiming to break prejudices, combat violence, and challenge the dominance of heteronormative notions of sexual identity, homosexual orientations, and gender. These projects aspire to raise awareness and build active partnerships amongst diverse groups in society, and to provide innovative, accessible, and engaging tools and methods to address gender and sexual diversity issues. We create multi media and music projects, conduct educational trainings and networking events with civil society organizations, and hold an academic summer school program on sexual and gender diversity.
Engaging Civil Society with Professional Training
Out of an in depth field research we conducted on civil society institutions working in Palestinian society, we developed a strategy for aligning civil society institutions and NGO staff members of human rights, feminist, and health organizations with alQaws’ vision of a society wide embrace of gender and sexual diversity. Our civil society training and partnership initiative continues to expand, and we now train organizational staff, activists, high school teachers, and more, preparing them to work with groups on issues of sexual and gender diversity. In the trainings (which vary in length according to organizational needs), organizational members acquire basic analytic tools and group facilitation skills, as well as build their knowledge in issues of sexual and gender diversity.
Professional Advocacy Groups
The creative cultivation of professional advocacy groups became a major focus for alQaws when we created our strategic plan for 2016 2018. In this strategy, we focus on a problem in a professional sector (such as human rights NGOs, schools and universities, therapy and counseling, news media, etc.), and carefully explore opportunities for change within leading institutions through fieldwork, interviews, and research. The exploration stage helps us focus on a narrow set of the most promising and willing partners for training and education on gender and sexual diversity. Using tools relevant to the professional field (such as trainings, peer groups, or collaborations), alQaws facilitates actions that make incremental progress toward small and large goals, such as creating large scale institutional change. For our therapists’ advocacy groups, we aim to create a friendly therapists list so that these services are available to LGBTQ individuals who come to us in need, yet we also aim for these therapists to continue this progress through peer advocacy initiatives (in this case, therapists organized a National Study Day) that have the potential to shape their professional field at large. In our new initiative to shift local media coverage on sexual and gender diversity issues, the tools and goals may differ, but the strategy to transform a professional field is basically the same—identifying opportunities, establishing partners, peer advocacy and networking, and building a movement.
Sparking Intellectual Debate
We organize and curate lectures and discussions in public cafes, on university campuses, and in international and online journals on gender and sexual diversity issues in our society. Our now bi annual Sexual and Gender Diversity Academic School brings together a wide group of academics and students for three days around the theme of Sexual Politics in the Colonial Context of Palestine, which we then develop into publications the following year. With these intellectual initiatives, we further promote a relevant and constructive public discourse on gender and sexual diversity that is based on the actual experiences of the Palestinian LGBTQ community. Our Academic School allows us to capitalize on and foster academia as a safe sphere to discuss controversial issues like sexual and gender diversity, helping to combat the tendency in social and intellectual discussion to frame oppressive structures and negative perceptions around these issues as “unique” to Palestinian society.
Transforming Local Media
In our two year field research study, titled “Attitudes & Trends among Palestinian Media,” we developed a full picture of the local media’s past and current role in addressing sexual and gender diversity issues, and the opportunities for us to intervene. Moving forward, we will advocate among professional Palestinian journalists and media agencies to fundamentally shift their approach to gender and sexual diversity issues, encouraging positive coverage and thoughtful debate of otherwise taboo or maligned topics, such as homosexuality, violence targeting gender and sexual minorities, women’s sexuality, and more. Current initiatives directly expose media professionals to a local discourse on sexuality, seek to build trust and understanding with prominent journalists, and lay the foundation for partnerships that we believe will radically re shape the local media’s approach to gender and sexual diversity.
Cultural and media production
alQaws highly values creating its own cultural and media production as a means to fundamentally impact social discourse and culture at large. We mobilize local artistic resources to produce original artistic projects that engage gender and sexual diversity in variously alternative, creative, and accessible ways. Our first of its kind multi media project, Ghanni A’an Ta’arif / “Singing Sexuality” (www.ghanni.net), engages youth and students on issues of gender and sexuality diversity, identity, political engagement, and society. This initiative began as a massive collaborative artist and activist production, including our first full album of original songs, a live album release concert, and the creation of an interactive online multimedia platform. Moving forward, we will continue to partner with influential local media organizations to mobilize other local artistic and cultural resources to produce new original media pieces (like animations, illustrations, video campaigns, and more), aiming to broadcast LGBT and sexual and gender diversity issues by targeting a new generation of tech savvy Palestinian youth.