What was meant to be a one-off event has grown into one of the country’s biggest breast cancer awareness initiatives. This year will mark the seventh year of the Pink Hijab Day (PHD) campaign in South Africa, which has grown in momentum since its humble beginnings in 2008.
The South African chapter was launched by Johannesburg-based Humairah Jassat and is based on a global initiative founded in 2004 in the U.S. state of Missouri by a group of high schools students, led by Hend El-Buri.
For Jassat, the decision to bring the campaign to South Africa was sparked by an aunt being diagnosed with breast cancer, and the realisation that a lack of dialogue exists around the disease. She decided to launch PHD with the aim of raising awareness, while simultaneously clearing misconceptions around Muslim women.
“I felt we needed to break down these barriers, open up, sit down and discuss crucial things that are going to affect us,” she says.
The campaign has thus far proven a success, with thousands of women from different walks of life donning the pink hijab annually during the month of October, coinciding with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“When you don your pink hijab, the point is to sit down for a few minutes and say a little prayer for all those battling breast cancer.”
Jassat acknowledged that the project’s longevity has come as something of a surprise, particular since the initial intention had been for a one-off event. But an approach from an elderly Jewish women whose perspective on Muslims changed as a result of the campaign, spurred Jassat to continue.
“She said she was shocked. She said it broke her down because she hated Muslims because of the political troubles. She regarded Muslim women as naïve, stupid and uneducated, but here were thousands of Muslim women wearing this pink hijab (in recognition of breast cancer),” she explains.
With Pink Hijab Day scheduled to take place on Wednesday 28th October, Jassat challenged Muslim women across the country to don a pink coloured hijab or any other apparrel in support of the cause. Furthermore, a pink ribbon could be worn for the remainder of October in line with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I want you in your offices, schools and workplaces to engage with colleagues, teachers and friends. Tell them what about the hijab, tell them what Pink Hijab Day is and talk about breast cancer. Bring about that dialogue,” she urges.
VOC will be hosting an awareness day on Tuesday and Wednesday in line with the Pink Hijab Day campaign. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)