This year we have seen more Muslim women (and girls) making headlines than ever before. They are breaking norms and following their dreams, trailblazers, changemakers and a source of inspiration for us all. We have created a list to give you a quick overview of some of those women who inspired us in 2016.
1. Stephanie Kurlow
Stephanie Kurlow, passionate about dancing since the age of two, set her mind on becoming the world's first Muslim (hijabi) ballerina. Kurlow faced hardship when she started wearing the headscarf and noticed how no full-time ballet studio would accept her in her hijab. She refused to let that be the end of her dancing career and at the age of 14, set up a crowdfunding campaign to realize her dreams. She caught the attention of the Swedish sporting brand Björn Borg and received the very first Game-changer Scholarship this year. The scholarship exist to support athletes with extraordinary visions and dreams and who plan to change the game. Kurlow surely fits the description and we look forward to seeing her changing the game these coming years.
2. Zaha Hadid
This year the world lost one if its best architects; Zaha Hadid. With this loss we were reminded of the legacy she had left behind. The Guardian dubbed her as 'Queen of the Curve' with designs that include the Aquatics Centre constructed for the 2012 London Olympics, Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku and the Maxxi Museum in Rome. Iraqi-born British architect Hadid was the first woman in her own rights to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal 2016 by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and to receive the Pritzker Prize 2004 among multiple other awards. Hadid expressed her honor to have received RIBA and said:
"We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress."
We honor Zaha Hadid as a trailblazer and we are sure her work will inspire generations to come.
3. Ilhan Omar
The same day as the US Presidential election result was announced and just days after Donald Trump divisive rhetorics about Somalis in Minnesota, Ilhan Omar became the nations first Somali-American legislator winning the Minnesota House of Representative seat. Omar carries multiple identities of being a refugee, woman, hijabi and Muslim, and although she has faced obstacles due to this Omar said it is important that someone is bold enough to show it is possible so that others can dream it. We think many will now be able to live their dream thanks to Omar's inspiring campaign and victory.
4. Ibtihaj Muhammad
Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first woman to don the hijab and compete for a US team in this year’s Olympics in Rio. She won her first Olympic medal in August. Prior to joining the national fencing team, Muhammad was a 3-time All-American and the 2005 Junior Olympic Champion.
In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, Muhammad said:
We look forward seeing her win more championships and shatter stereotypes along the way.
“I’m hoping that through my experience at the Olympic Games, through winning a medal, that I combat and break those stereotypes and misconceptions that people have about Muslims, African-Americans and even about women.”
5. Warsan Shire
Warsan Shire was awarded the first Young Poet Laureate in 2014 after publishing her first book of poems, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, in 2011. The Somali-British poet came to London as a one year old. Shire has in an interview with Africa in Words expressed her interest lies in telling the stories of people, especially refugees and immigrants, whose stories are either not told or told inaccurately. An accomplished award-winning poet with her own strong following and presence on social media, Shire's work caught the attention of Beyonce. Beyonce's stunning visual album Lemonade released this summer includes Shire's poems For Women Who Are Difficult To Love, The Unbearable Weight of Staying (the End of the Relationship) and Nail Technician as Palm Reader. This collaboration has been a successful one and gained new level of attention for Shire's work. Shire continues to put words into what many feel and we look forward to reading more of her poetry next year.
6. Nadiya Hussain
Britain and the rest of the world got a bit teary-eyed watching Nadiya Hussain's emotional win in The Great British Bake Off 2015. After capturing the hearts of many, Hussain returned with her own TV-show this year in The Chronicles of Nadiya - a mini documentary that invites the viewer on a culinary journey across Hussain's home country of Bangladesh. Hussain was also selected to bake Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday cake in April and named by Debrett's as one of the 500 Most Influential People in the UK in 2016. For many, Hussain represents a fresh face and one that continues to touch and bring joy to a wide audience. Perhaps we will soon see her with her own cooking show? We will have to wait and see.
7. Rahaf Khatib
This year the US Women's Running magazine chose Rahaf Khatib, a hijabi runner, as their cover model. Khatib, who runs @runlikeahijabi on social media, had reached out to the fitness magazine and pointed out the lack of media representation of Muslim hijabi runners. This is the first time the Women's Running magazine featured a hijabi in their magazine. Khatib was featured on the cover of their #LikeAGirl: 20 Incredible Stories of Women Who Are Changing the Game issue. Their choice of featuring a hijabi runner spread around the world with many hailing the inclusion and representation of Muslim sports women. We believe representation matters and we are glad Khatib took that first bold step in contacting the magazine!
Let us know who inspired you this year!
- Faduma Aden
Founder & Creative Director of Jemmila
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