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Tanzanian Women Confront Stereotypes of What a Woman and Wife should be in Islam

The Pink Hijab Initiatives, launched by Khadija Omari Kayanda, is guiding hundreds of Muslim women in business careers, a daring act in Tanzania. A devoted Muslim, Kayanda says the Quran supports women’s rights, an interpretation at direct odds with that of traditionalists. Founded in 2016, Kayanda’s organization, Pink Hijab Initiatives, has approximately 800 members in Tanzania. Three hundred Muslim women attend regular seminars on growing their businesses. Pink Hijab Initiatives also sets up income-generating activities for Muslim women and distributes sanitary napkins, which are often unavailable to girls, to 1,500 young women in a district south of Dar es Salaam. Kayanda recently recruited 25 women on Pemba, an island off the Tanzanian coast, to start a production plant for beauty products made from seaweed. Divorced and unemployed, the women were left to provide for their children by themselves. In some divorce cases in Muslim communities, women receive next to nothing after settling in a religious court. As more Muslim women gain literacy in the Quran and challenge male interpretations, things are slowly changing. In Tanzania, Kayanda is one of the few Muslim women who are openly confronting stereotypes of what a woman and wife should be in Islam. As part of a global interfaith network, Kayanda works with other East African human rights activists. Starting in 2022, she aims to expand Pink Hijab Initiatives to other countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan.