Launched for the first time on Women’s Day of 2021, Slétåte is a Palestinian jewellery brand dedicated to empowering women by advocating for their sexual health and rights. Each of its silver accessories tackles a specific topic with the intent of sparking conversations, promoting awareness about essential women’s health issues, and breaking stigmas.
The organization’s work echoes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly with Gender Equality. Not only does it raise awareness and spread education on important topics for women’s sexual health and rights, but it also gives more job opportunities to women in Palestine since they are the primary producers of the brand, reflecting on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Decent Work and Economic Growth.
Enas Dajani, originally from Beit Lahem, Palestine, and founder of Slétåte, volunteered for women’s sexual health while completing her architecture studies.
“I have been inspired by the stories of different women in Palestine, different urban fabrics, refugee camps, and villages even in cities, including my own story from my early adulthood,” Dajani expresses in her interview with Arts Help.
Dajani suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome as early as the age of 15. Due to lack of knowledge about this syndrome, it took a while before she got diagnosed, leading her to undergo surgery to remove her cysts. She describes it as the spark that made her enter the world of promoting sexual awareness and sexual health more generally.
Slétåte initially refers to the bracelets Palestinian women traditionally wear at their weddings to represent their symbolic attachment to their husbands, which look visually similar to handcuffs. “I wanted to play with the words, I want this idea of handcuffs to become the opposite: a symbol of freedom and empowerment,” Dajani shared.
In 2021, the brand all started with Dajnani wanting to create a designed necklace with a clitoris on it for herself and going to a jewelry shop at her request. “After a lot of hesitation, when I was asked what this shape was, I decided to go for the truth and explain what the clitoris is, which made me face a lot of backlash by this jewelry maker and many others after.”
Consequently, Dajani started making jewelry by herself with materials she got from her father’s construction business, without any prior experience or knowledge. The positive reactions amongst her friends and social circle pushed her to start a business out of this jewelry. With each piece comes a card with an explanation, “this way you do not simply buy the jewelry but also the knowledge,” says Dajani.
The goal is for people to spread the message and awareness without even being aware of it, simply by wearing Slétåte’s pieces and sparking conversations about usually very stigmatized topics.
Examples of Slétåte’s pieces include designs of a clitoris, a uterus, the sign equal to represent equality between genders, the woman’s body, cysts as a reference to PCOS, a section of the breast representing breastfeeding, or the letter “T” in Arabic. For the latter, she played with the look of the letter to also make it look like a woman’s portrait, this letter in Arabic is particularly used at the end of feminine words, making it a feminine symbol.
All of these are produced in Beit Lahem and are currently made in a factory owned by an Armenian Palestinian family, according to Dajani. The producers are women from Muslim and Christian communities in Beit Lahem providing opportunities to women locally.
With the current situation in Gaza, undoubtedly it is unimaginable to consider a business amid survival. The team has unfortunately lost one of their members, Mohammad Abu Samra, killed by an Israeli sniper, two weeks after having lost his twin brother. Samra was also a lawyer, dedicated to human rights and women’s rights in Gaza and Palestine. Another one of their key members was Bisan Owda, a journalist who recently became known worldwide for her constant coverage of the war on Gaza. She lost her office, her house, and all the brand’s stocks due to the war.
Women in Palestine still struggle to find access to education and health. To acquire bodily autonomy and freely own their body is also a challenge. For example, it is uncommon for a woman to get treated by a gynaecologist before marriage. Dajani explains how they are still expected to wear certain things and avoid tattoos, for example. “With the Israeli occupation, if we had to rank Palestinian’s rights in general, women’s rights would only come at the 100’s position in ranking, since there are so many things to talk about.”
Additionally, when it comes to sex education, Dajani adds “It is currently non-existent to both men and women, except if one decides to go to med school. There is no access to both the knowledge and services.”
However, Dajani mentions the nonexistence of the Palestinian government due to the occupation. As a consequence, as opposed to women in Lebanon, Jordan, or Egypt, women can’t ask for their rights from anyone in particular since Palestinians have absolutely no autonomy, not even the right to self-determination. The struggle of Palestinians is not only in Gaza since the West Bank is also under occupation and controls everything on the land.
“I believe we can do both at the same time, it does not need to be one right after the other,” states Dajani.
Unfortunately, this makes the fight for women’s rights a complex one. As Dajani explains, it often sparks resistance from the people in Palestine who consider that they should have access to their basic rights first, making women’s rights seen as non-urgent and very secondary.