Why You Should Know: Safaa Bokhari

Bokhari is a project partner of Hello Hijab, which has begun locally producing and selling hijabs for dolls to combat intolerance.


photo by martha rial

About: Like many Muslims, Safaa Bokhari was often confronted with intolerance after moving to the United States from Saudi Arabia. She found herself being gawked at or disparaged for wearing traditional abaya (long dress) and niqab (face cover), as well as hijabs. So when Gisele Fetterman, who runs the nonprofit For Good PGH with Kristen Michaels (forgoodpgh.org), approached her with the idea to make hijabs for dolls, Bokhari was thrilled. Hello Hijab is the first project of For Good PGH, which began producing and selling the hijabs locally this spring.

  • The objective of Hello Hijab is to make playtime more diverse and inclusive. If children see women wearing headscarves as a common occurrence, it will build respect for women of all religious backgrounds, Bokhari says, noting she sees it as making a safer, more accepting world for own children.
  • Since beginning the project, Fetterman, Michaels and Bokhari have been contacted and praised by Muslims around the world, some of whom have sent photographs of young girls playing with dolls wearing hijabs. “They are very happy,” Bokhari says. “Because little girls want something resembling them.”
  • “It will help,” Bokhari says. “It will make a difference. You know, just playing with a hijab, it will build something in the children … when they take the hijab off the Barbie, it is still the same Barbie.”
  • Proceeds from Hello Hijab are divided amongst four local nonprofit organizations dedicated to immigrants: the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, the American Civil Liberties Union, Community Blueprint and the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh.
  • Bokhari says that Hello Hijab would not have been able to flourish if not for the close-knit atmosphere in Pittsburgh. “A lot of people here are open-minded,” she says. “So when you talk to someone, they listen.”
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