During the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world became familiar with the term PPE (personal protective equipment.) Individuals working in the healthcare field must don the safety gear on a daily basis to avoid contaminating their bodies and clothing while caring for patients. However, for Muslim women, finding disposable protective hijabs to wear was impossible.
Since ordinary medical caps leave the neck exposed and do not meet hijabi standards, female Muslim healthcare employees still need to wear their cloth hijab beneath it. With only the top of the hijab covered, the rest is left exposed, and can potentially be contaminated by infectious materials.
Respiratory therapists Yasmin Samatar and Firaoli Adam have years of experience in hospitals across the country, including working on the front lines treating patients during the pandemic. Having experienced firsthand the frustration, worry, and loss of productivity caused by the lack of viable personal protective equipment for Muslim women, they used their expertise and vision to create a line of disposable protective hijabs called Hygienic Hijab.
“In our journey in healthcare, not having access to culturally-conscious PPEs compromised not only our safety but also the safety of our patients and their loved ones,” Samatar and Adam say. “Every time we were in a higher exposure area, with a patient in a lab, or in a COVID room, so was our hijab. Hijabs worn in the medical facilities were not a form of PPE, and left healthcare workers exposed to infectious fluids and diseases.”
Samatar and Adam, who are Somali and Oromo, respectively, also had family members with similar concerns. As patients going into surgery, MRI scans, and other procedures, they found that medical facilities did not have culturally-conscious hospital attire available for them. Instead, they were given a bedsheet in replacement of their hijab.
Realizing it was a problem faced by many, they developed a solution, leading the charge to create an FDA-compliant bio-safe, disposable hijab. The first of its kind, the patent-pending innovative hijab was launched under the company they co-founded, Mawadda. "Mawadda" derives from the Arabic language, and refers to the deepest form of love, affection, sympathy, compassion and harmony.
"We intend to spread ‘Mawadda' through our company's mission and help influence the younger generation and those entering the healthcare field to understand that your presence is valued. We hope to help lighten the path for you all so that you all are able to bring more positive changes as well."
Mawadda’s Hygienic Hijab is a proprietary design derived from extensive user testing. It is currently available in two different styles. The "Ikram" style can be wrapped and tied in the front or back. The "Znub" style can be pulled on quickly and conveniently. Both styles are constructed from a specially-made, breathable spun-bond fiber. They offer a snug fit that can be worn alone or on top of an existing hijab.
“It’s been a long journey as we don’t come from a business background. We had to learn many things on our own, but also had a strong community behind us that knew the need of this product and stood next to us," the women say. "Having a multi-community encouragement as we embark on this journey is an amazing feeling, and we are proud to be representing our families, friends and our state of Minnesota.”
After establishing a foothold in the market with its flagship product, Mawadda plans to expand its product line to include other sanitary wear for healthcare workers. The company especially looks forward to continuing to meet the needs of Muslim healthcare employees and patients.
“We plan to include scrub skirts and long shirts, and to expand our market penetration outside of healthcare into other industries, such as food production and laboratories, where workers are also required to wear personal protective equipment in the course of their jobs,” say the duo.