Women’s History Month: Honoring the Muslim Women in Our Lives

Women’s History Month: Honoring the Muslim Women in Our Lives

Some days when I put on my hijab and walk out of the doors of my house, I can't help but feel immensely grateful for the plight of my ancestors, and by extension, my parents for passing down this beautiful faith of Islam to me. I know wearing the hijab in the country that we live in isn't necessarily the easiest thing, but the reality that I try often to reflect on is that the women before me never had the same privilege to express their faith the way that I do.

My parents immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in the early 90s, fleeing a war-torn country with hopes of ensuring a safe and stable future for my brother and I. What many people don't know is that, Ethiopia has never really been a safe-haven for Muslims throughout its modern history and even today. Many Muslims understand the country as a place that welcomed the Sahaaba during the first Hijra after they fled persecution in Makkah, at the order of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) — but outside of this historical event, Muslims from the region and specifically Ethiopia have always struggled to preserve and practice their faith in peace and freedom due to persecution. 

I always grew up hearing stories from my mother and aunts about how they were not allowed to wear hijab in schools, how they weren't allowed to have Muslim names in order to be enrolled in schools, and how hijab-wearing women were forbidden from ever presenting on television, etc. My mother always told me that it has been easier for her to practice Islam here in the States than in her home country, which teaches me how challenging it must have been to live somewhere where your primary identity has always been under attack. That is why I am grateful for what I have, and the freedom I have to cultivate and relish in my Muslim identity without worrying about my ability to pursue my dreams and passions.

During this month of Women’s History Month, and in light of last month being Black History Month — I want to highlight my mother, Leila. All my life, my mother has been a force to be reckoned with. She migrated to this country when she was only 17, and had to provide for her family back home which led her to abandon her dreams of ever pursuing her education. She had me at 21, and a year prior to that, she founded a local Ethiopian Muslim community center in Atlanta which is where I grew up. She has always been outspoken about issues that impacted our community and led by example, teaching me what it means to be a confident Muslim woman as she refused to be silenced or looked over every time our community came across obstacles. I love and admire her most for her ability to instill in me and those around her, tenants of self-acceptance, compassion, and perseverance. She has always been able to remain kind and hopeful despite all of life’s challenges. What makes my mother, and so many Muslim women around the world, phenomenal, is their ability to push forward and break the barriers that society has placed on them. My mother did this by breaking cultural norms and serving as a leader in a community when it wasn't a norm, and Muslim women across all cultural spectrums have been doing this for ages. During this Women’s History Month, I implore you to remember and honor all of the brave and diligent Muslim women in your lives, and in our collective history. Remember and honor their achievements, their accomplishments, and their contributions to making the world a better place 🌍.


  • Noreen on

    Absolutely loved reading this and learning about your mothers journey.

  • Kedija Teyeb on

    The article is very sweet and nice to see how she appreciate her mom

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