Celebrating World Hijab Day Today and Every Day
World Hijab Day was first recognised on February 1st, 2013, in honour of millions of Muslim women who chose to wear the hijab. It came about through the efforts of Nazma Khan, a Bangladeshi immigrant residing in the United States who had been shamed over wearing a hijab. Nazma used this as an opportunity to promote religious expression and cultural understanding by inviting women from all walks of life to experience wearing the hijab for one day – this day is now celebrated all around the globe.
Muslim women, particularly those wearing the hijab continue to experience xenophobic hate and discrimination both here in the west and across the developing world. There are also several factors that determine the level of hate a hijab wearing woman will receive, for example, a hijabi who is illiterate is likely to receive a different level of discrimination compared to a hijabi that is educated and holds a senior position within her workplace. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘’Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’’, and here at Penny Appeal we recognise the importance of empowering women through education and training, to equip them with the necessary skills to be able to speak up on their right to be treated equally. And in this case, the right to choose to wear a hijab without being subjected to prejudice and hostility.
This is what Penny Appeal’s Director of Growth, Ridwana Wallace-Laher had to say about the hijab:
"Wearing a hijab for me personally is a blessing, it’s a freedom and it’s important that days like World Hijab Day are recognised all around the world so that both hijab and non-hijab wearing women, Muslims and non-Muslims can show their support and solidarity with those who chose to wear the hijab. It’s important that we embrace diversity and promote equality in all of it forms and make it known that these women are beautiful and empowering and deserve to be celebrated not just on World Hijab Day, but every day.’’
On this day, we’d like to celebrate and share with you just some of the incredible work we’ve done with Muslim women around the world, particularly those who experience a profound level of discrimination due to wearing the hijab, and in doing so we’d like to encourage everyone reading this to join in celebrating women who wear the hijab, today and every day!
Through our Women’s Welfare and Women’s Empowerment programmes, we have worked with women across Asia and Africa and have provided education and training programmes that have allowed women to live independent and sustainable lives.
Our Women’s Empowerment programme in the region of Rautahat in Nepal is a particularly special one due to the level of discrimination Muslim women receive in this area. Muslims are one of the most numerically significant minorities in the region of Rautahat, and one of the countries most disadvantaged groups. They are socially excluded from public decision making, local governance and development as well as both formal and informal practices. Seen as outsiders, Muslims suffer continuous, widespread discrimination often caused by rumours spread by a population that struggles to understand them, and hijab wearing women who are evidently Muslim are particularly susceptible to animosity.
These women have little to no access to human rights and are unable to apply for citizenship without a man’s permission. They are often left without an identity, because of the societal fear that their independence will lead to increased rights and access to land. They have practically no access to health facilities, safe maternal delivery, property, healthcare, or education. Early marriage is common; 50% of women aged 20-24 are married before they turn 18. This situation is caused by religious misinterpretation and strong, traditional cultural values, which place men in an authoritative role, cementing their hierarchy in society.
When Penny Appeal first visited this community, the women were very quiet. Unsure and timid, they did not speak and lacked confidence and self-belief. Penny Appeal identified the need for a female empowerment intervention in the district. Providing the women of Rautahat with livelihood opportunities was not enough; we needed to create lasting change within the community, elevating the status of the women and advocating for their rights.
So far, this partnership has seen us grant citizenship to 40 women within the community, giving them a legal identity in a first step towards more equal treatment. We subsequently set up several training schemes through which the women could learn valuable skills, such as sewing, beautician training and E-Rickshaw driving, with the aim of providing them with seed grants upon completion of their training so they could set up small businesses.
When we asked who will be continuing their work now that the training has finished, every woman raised her hand. When asked why, their reply was simply, “We feel complete.”
This work has mobilised Rautahat from a community level all the way up to government level, advocating for these women and raising their awareness on women’s rights.
We will continue to celebrate women who wear the hijab today and every day through the work that we do, and we encourage everyone to join us on our mission to ensure those who choose to wear the hijab are treated equally.
You can find out more and donate towards our Women’s Welfare and Empowerment programmes via the link below:
WEDNESDAY 1 FEB 2023