This Muslim Entrepreneur Invented a Hijab that Allows More Girls to Play Sports
In 2008, Hussein began volunteering at an after-school program for Minneapolis kids from her local East African community. The avid runner noticed a vexing pattern: Muslim girls avoided the gym, an unofficial boys' club. To bring would-be Serena Williamses into the fold, Hussein, now a 28-year-old social worker, launched the Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports and lobbied for single-sex gym times. Still, a deeper problem remained: "Culturally appropriate athletic clothes didn't exist," she says.
Hussein's quest brought her to the University of Minnesota. Starting in 2013, she and her young athletes collaborated with students and faculty there to create knee-length tunics and matching leggings. But designing head coverings, which must hide girls' hair completely, proved more difficult. "They had to be breathable and safe," Hussein says. One tailor and 80 types of fabric later, Asiya was born and Hussein's reinvented hijab was ready to roll. She hopes the piece's secure pull-on design, its biggest improvement, will inspire potential athletes to pick up a racquet or a glove. Says Hussein, "Something as simple as clothing shouldn't keep girls from sports."
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