A Peace of Palestine
After many late night discussions, my cousin Assala and I decided to take action and create an opportunity to express ourselves and allow other Palestinian women in our community in Sydney, a platform to express themselves. We decided to focus on the narratives of Palestinian women in diaspora, living in Sydney and their stories connected to their favourite Thoub (national dress). Partnering with another blogger team focused on empowering women, we created a series of portraits to accompany the narratives. In addition, we wanted this to be more than a cultural event, we incorporated a social impact element into the event, raising funds for UNRWA- focusing on children centric projects in Gaza.
We were adamant that the event be something different to the usual community events and one that made those outside of the community feel welcome to join and to explore Palestinian culture. We wanted the emphasis to be on our beautiful culture and to dispel common stereotypes about our women. Overall it was to be a celebration! A celebration of art, culture, community, food, dialogue and sharing.
On night of the launch, we offered our guests a subversive experience, but incorporating cultural elements, including traditional Palestinian Oud music, coffee and our famous Knafeh dessert. We had an incredible task force of youth volunteers from the community welcoming our guests, showing them around and attending to their coffee and dessert needs. This was especially important as we wanted the guests to feel true Palestinian hospitatlity and it allowed the youth the chance to feel proud and share their heritage.
After guests enjoyed the exhibition, we invited everyone to engage in an all female panel discussion, discussing what it meant to be a Palestinian woman and what their experience of being a Palestinian woman in diaspora was like. We then opened the discussion up to the audience and it was great to see men from the community and those from outside of the community not only attending, but participating and supporting the women on the panel.
With the sale of the tickets, our auction and donation boxes, we managed to raise $10,000 AUD for the children in Gaza. All money raised went straight to the charity.
Perhaps even more important than the funds was the impact we witnessed on the community, it created a buzz and excitement that we had not seen before. We saw that some of the youth had taken steps to start their own initiatives, my Aunty Abeer (Assala’s mum) became famous for her Knafeh and felt confident enough to start her own Knafeh start up!! We saw Assala speak more often and establish her role as a youth leader even further. We even met more kindred spirits and motivated some to go to Palestine to visit or to volunteer.
As individuals, we conquered some fears (me- speaking in public), we learnt a lot about organising an event- the good and bad. We realised our dream of spreading the word about our culture- some comments during the night and after, that we received included : “WOW- I didn’t realise Palestine had its own culture! It’s beautiful!”.
Our community on that night and sine then have been asking- What’s next for APOP? Well for us…. it is our dream it continues to travel, evolving and expanding. It is our dream that we can continue to raise funds for those in need especially women and children and that we can continue to show the world our beautiful culture and dispel the myth that we are helpless victims.