Founded in 2014 by a group of young activists, Mawjoudin (Arabic for We exist), is an officially registered non-governmental organization, based in Tunisia. Alarmed by the situation of LGBTQ persons and the restrictions put on bodily and sexual rights in Tunisia, Mawjoudin seeks to defend and promote human rights generally, while fighting against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mawjoudin turned to graphic storytelling and published a comic book to share and celebrate LGBTQ individuals and identities. Queer Squad 1, “Bored in the House” explores and documents the lives of six characters who identify as LGBTQ in the context of the pandemic. The comic deals with the complexities of queer life in Tunisia and aims to defy queerphobia and educate others about sexual orientation and gender identity in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Storytelling through comics and graphic design is not new, but the combination of LGBTQ storytelling and documentation of the realities of COVID-19 in an accessible medium is an innovative example of storytelling and human rights education.
Theory of Change
In societies where discrimination is entrenched, creative storytelling initiatives can help challenge queerphobic ideas, break the silence around LGBTQ rights and raise awareness about sexual orientation and gender identities.
Mawjoudin established the first annual LGBTQ film festival in North Africa in 2018. Due to the pandemic, the festival was cancelled this year. Mawjoudin has also written, illustrated, and published The Queer Squad comic book which is available online. Separately, they have also issued statements to keep people informed about developments or lack thereof in their general work and in the LGBTQ rights sphere.
The Queer Squad comic book was released online in Arabic and English to coincide with the May 17th International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. It has raised awareness and drawn attention to LGBTQ stories during the pandemic. The released comic book is episode 1, indicating that Mawjoudin intends to continue the project as an awareness raising and identity celebrating mechanism in the future.