Asalaam alaikum! My name is Hawa Zeba, and I am 19 years old. I was born and raised in West Africa, Côte D'Ivoire. I moved to the United States when I was 15 years old. I am currently a student at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, majoring in media studies, and I want to share my hijab journey with you guys.
I first started wearing the hijab when I was seven years old in first grade. My mom is a niqabi, so she wanted her child to get used to the hijab as soon as possible because she thinks it is easier to learn about the value of hijab from a young age. I grew up in an area with lots of Muslims; even though the majority of my friends were Christians, the mosque was like five minutes away from our house. The mosque would offer $5 Islamic studies sessions in the afternoon. So My mom made my twin brother, and I go every day after school to learn about Islam. I got taught about what a good Muslim should or shouldn't do and, as a result, learned about the value and beauty of my religion. My mom is my biggest inspiration; she did not force me into the hijab but instead made me fall in love with it by explaining its importance and beauty.
"My mom is my biggest inspiration; she did not force me into the hijab but instead made me fall in love with it"
At twelve, I began wearing the hijab properly. It instantly became my passion because I knew a Muslim woman needed to cover herself and my dream was to wear it exactly like my mom. I remember crying to my mom to get me abayas, and I used to try my mom’s niqab on in secret to see how it looked on me. I have loved khimars ever since I was young, but I never got to get one because I couldn't afford it until now, all thanks to Les Sultanas; their khimars have niqabs. They are phenomenal. I have the pink and light sand-colored khimars from Les Sultanas. When I first wore them, I got compliments from so many people. My mom called me from Africa to buy her some; she says it will facilitate her ways since she is a niqabi.
Nobody was allowed to wear a hijab to school in my home country unless you went to a private school. All girls and boys were forced to shave their heads from sixth grade to 12th grade. I grew up in a family where it was hard to get two meals a day. My parents could not afford a private school, so I didn’t have a choice but to go to a public one. Growing up in my country as a hijabi was not easy at all, I had to go through so much at school, but that didn’t discourage me to stop wearing it. I still wore my hijab, and once I got in front of my school, I took it off then wore it again after school to go back home. I remember a day when I forgot to take it off, and the principal saw me then forcibly took my hijab away from me and was about to burn it. I begged him for almost an hour until one of my Muslim teachers talked to him and convinced him to return my hijab to me. That day was the worst experience in my life. After seven years of struggling, my dad one day announced that he got a visa for my siblings and me to go to the USA Greensboro, North Carolina. When I got here, there were a lot of opportunities.
I got to wear my hijab everywhere and even get complimented sometimes. Even though I always complain about the city I live in right now, saying that it is not fun, I love being here, but I miss my homeland. Greensboro is a tranquil place; everybody is busy but still makes time for family and friends. There are many international people, especially in the area I live. There are many Muslims from different parts of the world, and during Ramadan, every household cooks traditional foods from their home country and brings it to the mosque for everybody to break their fast. There is also a newcomer’s school called Doris Henderson, which I attended when I first got here to learn how to read and speak English before getting sent to a regular school. It was the best experience I have ever had in my life, I met new people from different places, and I got to learn about other cultures; I even got to teach people about Islam because they didn't know much about it. A girl from Nepal who was in the same class as I said she had never heard of hijab before, so she asked me questions so took my time explaining it to her to thank me; she gave me a popular sweet from her country. I love North Carolina because of the freedom of choice in schools and the diversity. Finally, and most importantly, I feel safe walking in this city with my hijab.
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