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February 23, 2023

Grantee Partner Spotlight: HEART

by Nadiah Mohajir & Kiran Waqar

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by Nadiah Mohajir & Kiran Waqar of HEART.

HEART works to promote sexual health, uproot gendered violence, and advance reproductive justice by establishing choice and access for the most impacted Muslims. HEART is a Birth Justice Initiative grantee partner. 

What brought you to this work? 

HEART has existed for over 10 years, and has evolved so much in that decade! Starting as a hyper-local response to a community need for sexual health and violence education, the work has grown into a national public-health, anti-harm, and reproductive justice organization. We’ve grown in size and deepened in our passion.

How do you connect/collaborate in your community? Key partners?

Our work is inherently community-led and relational; it has been that way since HEART’s foundation. We are ever-changing and responding to community needs. We center survivors of all types of violence, including survivors of gendered violence, the War on Terror, and systems of oppression. We do this by working in coalitions. In the past couple of years, we have been a part of many, including the Partnership for Gendered Islamophobia, Muslim Abolitionist Futures, and Visibility, Voice, Vision: AAPI Reproductive Justice Agenda. 

Moreover, we work alongside Muslim communities to build their capacity to respond to and address gendered violence and reproductive injustice. Our hope is to not only equip people with the information and support they need to make informed decisions about their body and safety, but that they also become resources for others in their communities. 

What are you learning or what are you teaching? 

We always aim to practice what we preach! Far too often, it’s easy to intellectualize the work rather than embody it. We are challenging ourselves to take the time to reflect and learn more about ourselves! There’s a lot we can practice to deepen our relationships with ourselves, each other, and our Lord. We see ourselves as lifelong students deepening our understanding of the multiple intersections our communities have to navigate every day, and how that impacts their ability to live safe and healthy lives.

Tell us about a recent victory or something you’re proud of.

Within 24 hours of launching our book, The Sex Talk: A Muslim’s Guide to Healthy Sex & Relationships, it was #2 in Islam New Releases, #2 in Dating New Releases, and #10 in Islam! This whole book has been a massive labor of love. It’s exactly the book we’ve always wished we could publish! With try-it-out sections, reflection boxes, and culturally sensitive and faith-inspired information, this book fills a gap in our communities. This book is a reclamation of faith and of our bodies; about no longer accepting that which does not serve us. Instead, we are sitting in our collective power and decision-making abilities. This book is an offering and a tool for our communities to build safer and healthier relationships and communities. We could not be more proud.

What can philanthropy do better and/or how can individuals be helpful allies?

Philanthropy can do better by deepening their understanding of what it means to fund organizations that are directly led by impacted women of color working for and alongside directly impacted people. Listening to organizations working with the most marginalized means less reporting requirements, and more multi-year commitments and capacity-building opportunities. These types of funding allow more flexibility and support for organizations like ours to adapt to the needs of our communities.

What gives you hope?

Our community. Their response to the book has been incredible. From our focus group on the book with Muslim college students, to our launch party, to folks’ joy at seeing the book at LTAS, and to the reviews and feedback we’ve gotten so far, we’re so thankful! We hope this book will be more than a book; that it’ll be a community conversation, an opportunity for self-reflection, and an intergenerational tool. This book gives our communities hope. As our Manager of Training and Survivor Advocacy said at our book launch: “we’re building communities that are filled with joy.”