A girls empowerment organization in Eastern Iowa is offering sports hijabs to help Muslim girls stay active.
Some coaches with Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa have been noticing traditional hijabs aren’t keeping up with some of their runners. Kelly Teeselink directs the group, which helps young women build self-esteem while training for a 5-K run. She said the organization wants to provide options for girls who find a traditional hijab isn't suited to running.
“It's just different to have something that is more comfortable, that’s not moving around a lot, they’re not having to adjust it," Teeselink explained. "And so really it just came down to that this could potentially be a barrier for girls participating in sports. And they wanted to do something about it.”
In recent years, athletic versions of the Muslim head scarves have become more popular. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhhamad became the first U.S. Olympian to compete while wearing a hijab during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. A hijab-wearing Barbie doll was later modeled after her. And Nike released its first sports hijab in 2017.
Now girls participating in Girls on the Run of Eastern Iowa can request one free of charge. Teeselink sees the effort as an extension of the organization's mission to empower girls.
"It is so important for especially girls to feel supported as they’re deciding what kind of sports they want to be involved in, what kind of extra-curricular activities they want to be involved in," Teeselink said. "We know that when girls are physically active, they are happier, they are healthier, they have more confidence."
Teeselink hopes providing the option of a sports hijab will help ensure girls from all backgrounds feel included, supported and ready to run.
“When you see someone like you doing something awesome, especially for young girls that is hugely important because it shows them that person is like me and they did this and that means I can too,” Teeselink said.
The program for 3rd through 8th grade girls is now active at 31 schools across Eastern Iowa, with the fall session starting the week of Spetember 3rd. Girls can request a sports hijab on their registration form.