The founders of Mawadda, respiratory therapists Yasmin Samatar and Firaoli Adam, are first-generation Black Muslim women with years of experience working in hospitals across the country. Inspired by working on the front lines at the height of the pandemic, and witnessing the lack of viable personal protective equipment - or “PPE” - for Muslim women, they created the “hygienic hijab.” Yasmin says having to be vigilant about her appearance added to an already stressful and isolating environment.
“You're a new grad, you're just trying to swim, you're not trying to stick out. And at the same time, I was just hyper vigilant about my hijab during the whole process. I just felt like a big burden, because I was just like, ‘am I impeding my patient's safety? Am I bringing infection in?’”
Yasmin and Firaoli want to make sure the hygienic hijab is available to all health care workers, just like the gowns and gloves.
They say they sympathize with new people entering the field – especially those historically underrepresented in terms of race, religion, language and citizenship status.
“And that compelled us to raise our voices,” said Yasmin. “Even though in the beginning, we were very scared because you're thinking if I speak up, I won't get a job. If I speak up, this could happen. But we're finding other ways now to have a seat at the table in a sense.”
Firaoli notes that in addition to being available for purchase on their website, Mawadda is continuously working to form contracts with hospitals to supply the hygienic hijab for employees and patients.
“It's not a it's not an easy task to accomplish. But we are determined, and hopefully, everybody will be ready for us.”
Yasmin says that – while they are building bridges within the PPE world -- their main initiative is to work toward greater cultural inclusivity in the hospitals, and to have Muslim voices valued.
“It's not only about hiring Black bilingual workers, it's a also sustaining them in those systems, giving them a safety net of how to be in this kind of environment,” she said. “And also how to be heard if you're a healthcare worker and you're dealing with racial discrimination, but also you have to advocate for your patient and you have to advocate for yourself. So we need to have the voices and presence of the Black community and Muslim women as well to be heard and valued.”