Changing the world: Power of pink

2012-09-11 08:35

While most youngsters are worrying about what

outfit to wear to the next party, some are figuring out how to make

South Africa a better country.

Shocked that prejudice was keeping women uninformed about breast cancer, Humairah Jassat (21), donned her hijab and started educating.

When a then 17-year-old Humairah Jassat saw a number of women in her community, including her aunt, succumbing to breast cancer, she wondered why the topic was still a taboo in the Muslim community, and in many others.

For a Grade 11 school project on community service in 2008, she decided to raise awareness about the disease, its prevention and treatment.

“I collected pink scarves or hijabs and delivered them to cancer units. I knew that some of the women were uncomfortable with the hair loss that comes with chemo and the pink scarf was a way of making them feel good about themselves.

“Another reason I picked the hijab was to combat stereotypes around Muslim women. It was a way of showing that we are all the same and breast cancer shows no discrimination,” she says.

In 2010, Humairah won the Africa Innovation Prize for her initiative, Pink Hijab Day, and was invited last year to be part of the group of young women who spent time with Michelle Obama during her visit to South Africa.

As more people become aware of Humairah’s work, she says her community feels the barriers breaking down.

“People are starting to see that even though my head is covered, my mind is not shut nor are my thoughts veiled. This is also helping other Muslim girls see that they can do whatever they want to do in different areas of life,” she says.

With the success of Pink Hijab Day, Humairah has embarked on a new project, also dealing with breast health.
“As I’ve travelled across the country, I’ve realised that a lot of women in rural areas can’t afford bras. So I started the Pink Drive, where we collect bras and hand them out to women in need. We also educate them on how to live a healthy lifestyle,” she says.

Humairah plans to grow her projects and ensure that women of all colours, creeds and economic classes understand that there is no shame in having breast cancer.

“When we have our marches in October, one of our chants is ‘Early detection saves lives’. If more people can hear this, believe it and educate others, then this whole project would have been more successful than I could have ever hoped for,” she says.

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