Ever scrolled through the extensive emoji list and struggled to find someone who even vaguely resembles you?
That’s what Rayouf Alhumedhi discovered when she was messaging her friends on WhatsApp one day.
The 15 year old was trying to find an image to represent herself in the group chat when she realised there was something missing.
There was no emoji for a hijab – even though the traditional covering is donned by 550 million women around the world. And now the Saudi Arabian-born teen is on a mission to change things.
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Alhumedhi, who now lives in Germany, has created a proposal for a new emoji that she’s sending to the company in charge of introducing the cartoonish images to the market.
“Women all across the globe choose to wear the headscarf because of its evident indication of their faith and identity. However, the hijab stretches much further than a piece of cloth on your head. It also influences the way you talk, the way you act and ultimately, your lifestyle. To say it’s an integral aspect of women’s lives is an understatement,” the student wrote in her pitch to the Unicode Consortium.
“The addition of the hijab emoji will prove to be a step forward in tolerance and diversity. It is distinctive and holds a lot of spiritual meaning to millions of women across the globe, recognising its importance will ultimately showcase great appreciation from the Muslim community.”
Alhumedhi initially approached Apple with her concerns, but after no response she stumbled upon Unicode, the non-profit responsible for reviewing and developing new emojis.
With a little help, the teen was able to compile a seven-page proposal, complete with a historical timeline of the hijab and packed with stats and citations.
“The most I’ve written are lab reports at school, so this was really a new experience for me,”Alhumedhi told BuzzFeed. “But I had some help and followed the structure of other good proposals.”
So good was her idea that it was spotted by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who decided to sponsor her proposal.
With the help of a graphic designer, Alhumedhi has designed images of both a male and female character wearing a headscarf, along with three versions of the covering on its own.
Currently the only vaguely similar emoji available is a man wearing a turban, but the teen says her design could be used by people of many faiths, including Orthodox Judaism and Christianity.
Alhumedhi hopes to send the finalised version of her proposal to Unicode by November and, if successful, the hijab emoji could be introduced next year.
“There are so many Muslim women in this world who wear the headscarf,” she told the BBC. “It might seem trivial… but it’s different when you see yourself on the keyboard around the world. Once you experience that, it’s really great.”
Image: Aphelandra Messer