Mauj is an online platform dedicated to offering Arab women a space to talk and learn about their bodies. Its slogan is ‘sexual and reproductive wellness by and for Arab Women’. We talked to its founders (who chose to remain anonymous) to know all about it.
What’s the story of Mauj? And what’s the significance of the name?
From a young age, conversations surrounding our bodies have taught us that they’re a source of shame and guilt. That they are not ours alone. As a result, we disconnect from them, robbing ourselves of one of the truest relationships we can ever have.
Tired of the shame, stigma, and misinformation, we decided to change the way we learned – and spoke – about ourselves.
That’s where Mauj came in, the first sexual and reproductive wellness platform of its kind by and for Arab women.
The more we know about our bodies and the more aware we are of what we deserve and how we should be treated, the more we come to appreciate them. We grow a stronger bond with ourselves and thus, are more likely to stand up for it. That’s how change starts. Mauj is an invitation to come home to your body.
As for our name, it means “waves” in Arabic.
Mauj connotes waves of movement, waves of pleasure, waves of women coming together to drive change and turn the tide, reclaiming what’s rightfully theirs.
Our goal is to start honest and informative conversations about women’s sexual and reproductive health so that we can all change our perspectives on our bodies, cycles, and pleasure.
What’s Mauj’s mission? And what are the major topics you cover?
Mauj is the sex education we never got and wish we had. We exist to give women the tools and science-backed resources they need to get familiar and comfortable -on their own terms- with their bodies, wherever they are on their journey.
We’ve chosen to tackle the most taboo topics to distill fear, dispel myths, and simplify the information we need to understand our bodies.
We build our content around 4 pillars: Body, Cycle, Self, and Sex.
It is culturally empathetic, generationally relevant, and created with Arab women in mind.
Tell us about the Hakawatiyya series
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Arab women’s real stories are missing from everyday discourse.
Our collective pain, suffering, pleasure, and joy deserve to be talked about, normalized, and celebrated.
When these topics are not discussed publicly, women are at risk of experiencing violence and exploitation or of simply being at war with themselves.
Using the power of storytelling, we decided to share real women’s experiences — from the hardships to the deep pleasure — to paint a more holistic view of what it’s like to be a woman in the Arab world.
Borrowing from our Arab heritage, we looked to the hakawati (or storyteller). Traditionally, a male character who would travel far and wide, gathering stories to recount as tales. Our ‘hakawatiyyas’ are women who chose to tell the stories of those who couldn’t share them themselves. They have never known or met them but volunteer their voices to narrate their stories, so no woman ever feels alone in her experience. They do not rehearse the readings before filming.
Our writers are women from across the region who may have never told their stories before but chose to share them now.
The Hakawatiyya series not only shows just how similar our experiences can be, but also encourages more women to tell their stories.
From your perspective, why does the Arab World need an initiative such as ‘Mauj’?
We live in a region that does not provide sexual education in schools and rarely discusses it within families. The little information available that is culturally relevant or in Arabic is either hard to access, perpetuating the stigma around women’s sexual and reproductive health, or is incorrect.
The cultural discourse around female bodies and sex leaves women in the dark, often disassociated from parts of themselves.
This lack of education and conversation results in conditions like vaginismus, a psychological condition where sex is unbearably painful for women that finds its roots in a fear of intercourse. Lack of education also invigorates the gender inequality endemic to the penal codes around the region. It leads to sexual harassment, abuse, and to horrific practices like female genital mutilation and honor killings.
Would you describe ‘Mauj’ as a feminist initiative?
Feminism is probably one of the most widely misunderstood concepts or movements, and even more so in our part of the world. Although we choose not to label ourselves, our goals and values are intrinsically feminist because they strive to improve women’s access to information and, consequently, their place in society.
What are the challenges you face in running such an initiative?
Some followers accuse us of pushing a western agenda that encourages Arab girls to have pre-marital sex (zina). Our goal is to help women be better informed so that they can decide for themselves what is right for them. In fact, we encourage women not to rush into anything or give into any sort of pressure, and to understand their bodies and desires first and foremost, before engaging in any relationship.
Arab women are so diverse. We come from different cultures, backgrounds, and religions. There is no one-size-fits-all way of talking about sexual and reproductive health.
At Mauj, we foster a very inclusive environment. We welcome diversity in thoughts and beliefs, as long as they are expressed with respect.
Which groups is Mauj most popular with? How have you been perceived?
So far, Mauj has been very well received, the majority of responses are very positive and inquisitive. We often receive messages from women thanking us and reaffirming the need for our platform in the region.
We also know for a fact that there are many women who come to our profile, maybe even save our posts, but will not follow the account out of fear of being seen following a sexual wellness platform.
What would you say to someone who believes sex is private and shouldn’t be discussed in the public sphere?
Sex is indeed very private, but the reality is that our society has made sex everyone’s business.
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Talking about your sex life and getting sex education are two very different things. If we continue to keep sex hush hush, we are doing women a huge disservice. We are keeping them in the dark and leaving them unprepared for future relationships. Also, we put them at risk of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, or, worst of all, abuse.
We give the woman information she needs. We give her a safe space to ask questions without fear of being judged or attacked. That way, we set her up for a healthier, safer, and more fulfilled life.