Category Archives: acceptance

the hijab and its purpose, part 5 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: this is the conclusion of 15 year old Mariyah Rehmani’s ebook. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts and have learned something along the way. As we’ve been posting these installments there has been a dramatic rise in America of Islamophobia. Until classes in ethnic studies are required, until we talk around our dinner tables and on the bus about the people of the Middle East with the goal of awareness and understanding, until more dialogue takes place between all races, faiths, and genders, there cannot be peace. Thinkpeace girls? It’s time for action. Recently there have been reports of threats and attacks in schools across the United States. A 7th grader in Ohio, threatened to shoot a Muslim boy on the bus ride home from school, calling him a “towel head,” a “terrorist,” and “the son of ISIS.” A sixth-grade girl wearing a hijab in the Bronx was reportedly punched by three boys who called her “ISIS.”  So now, after reading Mariyah’s ebook– do you understand HER choice? Has your awareness been raised? If you saw her walking down the street in your town, what would you say, do, think? Let’s talk.  

SPRING WEAR:  Spring is all about having fun with different colours and prints. Lots of flowery designs and fun pastel shades fill the wardrobe of this season. It’s a great time to try new styles and experiment with something out-of-the-box! Spring has weather that can be warm but also windy, which means it gets a little tricky to dress up without getting either too hot or too cold. The following styles that were put together by some talented stylists showcase how one can enjoy the spring weather in full style, without having to compromise on modest fashion and can have fun all the while.

SUMMER WEAR: It’s that time of year where it’s hot and sticky (and possibly humid). But it is also the time where schools are out and everyone wants to be outside and have lots of fun. Amidst the trend of bright colours, light fabrics and short clothes, it becomes a little daunting for a muslimah to dress modestly yet not die of heat. The following looks feature different ways in which you can dress with modesty and beat the heat! The following looks will also help you gain an understanding of what colours and styles you can wear to dress light but also fashionably. So, sit back, relax and flip through the summery styles waiting for you on the next few pages!

 EVENT WEAR/DRESSY LOOKS:  Whether it be for a night out with your friends, or a dinner with your family, here are ways the hijab can be worn for dressier, more formal occasions.

FALL WEAR:  The ethereal beauty of falling leaves and the perfect sweater weather make fall one of my favourite seasons. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cool, and sometimes this weather can be tricky to dress up for. Let’s see how hijabis pull it off!


WINTER WEAR:  As winter sets in and it becomes more and more chilly, most hijabis use their trusted fashion defence mechanism: layers! Winter means more prints, more styles, more material, and sometimes even a scarf or two more to spice it up!

FANCY SHMANCY:  For the diva in you.

the hijab and its purpose, part 4 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: This is the fourth installment of Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose. In this post she puts together a LookBook full of stylish ways to wear the hijab, for all kinds of events and activities. On Thursday we’ll post seasonal fashion ideas and her conclusion. It is our hope that you enjoy this teen girl’s expression of style, grace, modesty and faith. It’s all wrapped up together for her and many girls like her around the world. As Coco Chanel said, “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” Mariyah, like many thinkpeace girls, is that courageous girl who speaks up and says, “Know me. I am worth knowing.”  Imagine…



Saara Zai: Instagram: @perksofbeingsaara

Sania Siddiqui: Instagram: @sanias


Saima Chowdhury: Instagram: @saimasmileslike






Summer Albarcha: Instagram: @summeralbarcha












CASUAL LOOKS:  Whether it is for a walk in the park or to go hang out with your friends, all of us need casual, comfortable and laid back attire in our wardrobes. Pieces that are easy to wear and can be worn for a multitude of purposes. Boyfriend jeans, loose tops and trendy yet not overpowering accessories can help you achieve the perfect casual look. However, feel free to mix and match, add a skirt or a pair of sunglasses! The following looks will help you stay comfy yet fashionable, all while wearing your beautiful hijab! This look is perfect if you’re out for a stroll or buying groceries. A loose button down shirt when worn over boyfriend jeans can help turn an otherwise formal piece of clothing into the perfect casual look. What’s more, these pieces are easy to wear and can be thrown together in a jiffy if you’re in a hurry. [I usually am!] Pair this with easy to slip on loafers or sandals as shown. A nice cotton scarf, either plain or printed will go perfect with the entire ensemble.




top and jeans: Gap

FORMAL WEAR:  Whether it be a business meeting or simply a day at work, looking sharp and well-presented is always important. Sometimes it can be hard to dress modestly while looking like you’re ready for business. Hopefully, the following looks will help give you a better understanding of how to pull this off and look your best in the workplace. These looks are examples of how you don’t need to sacrifice personal style or modesty in order to not just look- but feel good in your everyday work environment!

Thursday: The Seasons in Hijab Fashion and Mariyah’s conclusion

the hijab and its purpose, part 3 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: In this third installment of Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the author presents various women who have made the same decision that she has and how they are not limited in their actions as a result of their choice. Mariyah also addresses questions most frequently asked of her. We encourage you to read her thoughts and think about your own values and how you present yourself to the world. We’ve been getting a lot of feedback on this series, with a multitude of opinions and attitudes. We’re so happy to have this opportunity to learn, share and support the choices of girls around the world! Imagine!

Hijab doesn’t stop you from doing what you want

Shireen Ahmed – A passion for the game, a passion for her faith

Here is the story of Shireen Ahmed: a hijabi who shares her experiences with her passion for football, her connection with her hijab, and the ups and downs she has faced due to this. On March 1, 2014 something happened that changed Shireen’s life forever. On this day FIFA [The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or the International Federation of Association Football] announced that the IFAB [the International Association Football Board] had overturned their decision on banning head covering on the field. Friends, relatives, family, everyone was congratulating her and sharing this exciting news. Ever since July 2012, Ahmed has written, blogged and talked about her hope, gratitude and frustration with the process of the ban. When she heard the news, she was elated. But she was also exhausted and drained from the time lost from the sport she had come to know and love as a child. “It was a part of my identity. It was a part of my routine. It was a part of my life.” Ahmed says. In those years when the hijab was banned, she tried to find other ways to occupy herself, to keep her motivated and give her a sense of fulfillment.








She writes for the Huffington Post saying that she could relate to the anger and frustration felt by so many women who were told “NO” by an organisation that was supposed to create opportunities and advocate for the beautiful game of football. (Ahmed)

But life went on. She got on with her life, still watching football games but not playing as regularly. Later on, after what she says felt like several lifetimes, she found a league that would accept her and her hijab. She loved having to be able to play the sport again, the sweat rolling down her face, and the thrill of the game in her heart.

“And I remember what I always knew: I was a footballer who wore hijab. Not a hijab-wearing woman who played football. Fast forward to 2014 when Jerome Valcke announced: “It was decided that female players can cover their heads to play.” Muslim women could always play. Now they are permitted. Semantics.” Ahmed quotes.

She also states that she thanks God that her daughter will not have to go through what she did. She also says that today, she is not “happy”; she is disappointed that she lost so much time and energy. She pledges not to let it ruin other childhoods and affect and exclude people.

Football is for all of us. It should always have been. – Ahmed

Tawakkol Karman – Striving for Justice

Yemeni woman Tawakkol Karman- a journalist, politician and human rights activist was one of the youngest people to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 (Age 32), alongside Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee. Karman was awarded the Nobel Prize for her ‘non-violent efforts towards women’s safety and the right to participate fully in peace initiatives’. In 2005, she founded an organization named ‘Women Journalists Without Chains’ that documents unfair treatment of writers and newspapers and also reports human rights abuse/violations in Yemen. She was the face organizing weekly protests against the Government corruption and suppression in the year 2007 in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. She continued on her journey against injustice, encouraging public to support the Arab Spring Movement taking place in 2011 and was an active vocal opponent against President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime. When giving her acceptance speech in Arabic, she spoke about the struggles of the Arab women and how the situation must be changed. She says: “To all those women who are still stumbling on the path of freedom in countries with no social justice or equal opportunities, to all of them I say, thank you. This day would not have come true without you.”

When she was questioned about her hijab and how it is not in proportion with her level of education and wisdom, she replied saying: “Man in early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I’m wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.” This is one of her most widely circulated quotes, and one that has stirred much passion as well as criticism.

Mariah Idrissi – “Your personality isn’t restricted when you’re wearing a hijab.”

 Mariah Idrissi was taken aback when she heard her model booker friend ask whether she wanted to pose for H&Ms latest ad campaign. “You know I wear a headscarf, right?” She said in reply. Idrissi, currently 23, is H&Ms first model to don a hijab and has begun a lot of discussion on Muslims, the Hijab, and the modelling industry. She is attempting to send a message to everyone out there: “People have said, ‘Wearing a hijab is about being modest so how come you are posing?’ But why can you not look decent and covered? You don’t need to be naked to look good. There is no restriction on having a personality if you wear a headscarf,” she says.

While the shoot was taking place, Mariah says that she ‘pushed her opinion on what to wear’. There was one pair of trousers that was a bit cropped and I had to tell them there was too much ankle on show,” she laughs. “We went with the big flares instead. Then we picked the checked scarf because of the colour but it was too short to cover me so we had to find a sewing machine and stitch two together.”

When asked about her relationship with the hijab, and how she started wearing it, she said she started wearing it at age 17. “There was no pressure,” she says. “My dad is a more relaxed Muslim. But I started teaching at the school so it made sense, I did Islamic spoken-word poetry and started praying five times a day so had to cover up for that anyway. My mum started wearing it at about the same time I did.” She also shares that wearing the hijab has been a very natural to her, and that she hasn’t really noticed people treating her differently. “London is the best place in the Western world to be a Muslim. It is so multicultural.”

Why is it worn?

It is worn for a variety of reasons, because there are a variety of women who wear it, and do so for different causes. Some wear it because they believe it is God’s command, an obligation, and they must do so. Some do it because they feel more confident. Some do it so that people judge them for their mind and character rather than their physical appearance. Some wear the hijab because they are drawn to it. I, like many women, wear it for all the reasons above. (see section on why women wear it)

Is it compulsory?

Again, this is a matter that is widely been debated upon. Some believe that it must be done and is obligatory, a duty that must be completed. Some say it is a matter of personal choice, and some say it is not needed at all. It all depends on your culture, how you have been brought up to think of it as, and your personal perspective.

What is its message?

The message of the hijab to everyone else, is whatever the wearer wants it to be. This is something that is very subjective, changing from person to person. Some might want themselves to represent their community, their religion. Some just want to be taken seriously, and for their intellect, their personality, and their mannerisms rather than what people can see on the outside. I personally wear it to let others know what I believe in, that my creator has asked me to do something, whose benefits override any other doubts I had. I want people to know me for the words that come from my mouth, and my actions, rather than perceive me based on physical traits.

What is the historical context/reason behind it, if any?

The most accurate historical context behind the hijab would be the revelation of those particular verses that ask the believing women to cover themselves and ‘place their khumur over their bosoms’ ( These verses are speculated to be revealed in the latter half of 6 A H (in accordance to the Hijri or Islamic calendar). This when converted to Christian (Gregorian) dates is 627 A.D. The women of Madinah, considered to be the most pious and believing, tore their aprons apart and covered their heads when they heard this commandment from God. Please see the ‘Purpose behind the hijab’ section for a detailed explanation of the same.

Is it for culture or for safety?

Some may say that the hijab is merely a cultural tradition, while others may argue that it is a commandment from God. My personal view is that although the style, material, and fashion with which a woman covers her head, chest, and neck area etc. may be largely influenced by her cultural environment, wearing the hijab is an obligation a Muslim woman may choose to fulfill. I certainly believe that there is a certain amount of safety that covering of the head and bosom as well as wearing modest, loose clothing has to offer.

Is it comfortable?

It is as comfortable as you choose it to be. Wearing the hijab is something that a woman must be comfortable with, and she has to do it because she wants to. There are many different styles and materials to choose from, depending on what is available and how the weather in your country is, one can always choose the kind of covering one is comfortable in.

Does the colour matter?

One of the very first Hadiths I memorized as a kid was “innama al-a’mal bi-l-niyyat,”. What it means is that the judgements of a person’s actions are made based upon his intentions, i.e. if his intentions were good he will be rewarded and if they were evil, they will be punished. Similarly, the colour and the way in which you wear the hijab (or do anything for that matter) depends upon your intention. Generally, it is advised to stick with colours and prints that are not too eye-catchy or flashy so as to attract unwanted attention. However, it all depends upon one’s intention while wearing it. If a woman wearing any kind of scarf intends to do so to attract attention or to lure males, then the entire point of wearing the hijab is rendered moot. The point being, the intention and thought behind wearing your hijab is more important than the colour of your scarf.

Why only women?

As mentioned in the earlier chapters, the hijab is not only for women. Moreover, the hijab is more than a scarf on your head. It is your mannerisms, your thoughts, actions, the lowering of your gaze, and modest behaviour and attire. This applies not only to women, but to men too. However, the satr or the portion of one’s body that must be covered in public is different for women and for men. Indeed, God has made these guidelines with his unparalleled wisdom.

How was the orientation/structure of it decided?

As mentioned before, there is no particular structure or style of the hijab. Women all around the world wear it, and do so in a variety of different ways, using a vast selection of materials, colours, and styles. There is no set structure to it. Each country, or culture will have women wearing their hijabs in a different manner.

How long is it lengthwise?

Scarves and hijabs come in a variety of sizes and lengths. Typically, they are rectangular in shape and around 2m lengthwise and 2/3m in width. However, their length and width can vary greatly and this is just a rough approximation.

After what age do girls begin to wear it?

It is a girl’s choice whether she wants or doesn’t want to wear it. It is also her choice as to when she wants to begin wearing it, as and when she is comfortable. However, some girls are encouraged to begin wearing the hijab as they start puberty.

How did the hijab come into being?

As stated in the previous questions, the hijab began being worn after the verses regarding the same were revealed around the latter half of the 5th century. Although, covering of the head is much older than that. “Most people think of the veil solely in terms of Islam, but it is much older. It originated from ancient Indo-European cultures, such as the Hittites, Greeks, Romans and Persians. It was also practiced by the Assyrians. Veiling had class as well as gender implications…” (Dashu)

Why is it generally black?

The hijab and burqa (outer loose covering) is most commonly black, although it can be of any colour. Black is a basic colour that goes with almost all other colours and different styles. There is no such compulsion to wear black but it is definitely preferred by many women.

What is the use if it only covers your hair?

This is something I get asked A LOT. People are quick to question how covering only one part of your body “makes you modest”. That is something that needs to be understood, beauty is not just in the head and the hair, and neither is the hijab. As I have tried to clarify time and time again, hijab is not defined just by the covering of the head, although this is what the term has come to be known as. The hijab is more than a piece of cloth, it is your behaviour in front of others, the sincerity and intentions behind your speech and your actions, the way in which you interact with all those around you, how you present yourself. Refer to the previous chapters for more detailed information.

Do you wear it at home too?

I generally do not wear it at home, as I do not wear my hijab in front of my mahram, i.e. a list of people in front of which it is permissible to not wear the veil. These include people like your parents, younger siblings, grandparents, mother’s brothers, father’s brothers etc. Although, if we have (non-mahram) guests over I do wear my hijab at home.

What are the consequences of not wearing it?

In most parts of the world, there is no consequence of not wearing it. As it is an individual’s choice to wear or not to wear the hijab, it is also her choice if she wants to take it off. For most people that believe in the hijab, and covering up, also believe that it is a sin to not wear it and the consequence is in God’s hands.

Are you going to teach your children to wear it too?

I have always been an advocate of letting people make their own decisions for themselves. When my kids are of the right age, I will help them understand what the hijab means and figure out what they want for themselves. I will show them the verses in the Qur’an and from the Hadith. I will make sure they understand why I do it and what the true meaning behind it all is. They will have to make the decision by themselves.

How comfortably can it be followed at a workplace like a school in India?

I am fortunate enough to be studying in an international school that promotes values like openmindedness and intercultural awareness. I did not hesitate to start wearing the scarf at school; I knew I was doing it for myself and to strengthen my relationship with God, rather than for the people around me. Alas, many schools in India do not allow headscarves to be worn and have strict rules against anything that deviates from the dress code or uniform. As for me, I think I am very much comfortable with my hijab and can do everything that I did without it. I can study, take part in discussion, play football, run around, pretty much everything. I don’t feel bound by it because I know my hijab is in my hands. I do get the occasional stares or questions about “HOW can you possibly wear a scarf in this heat!?” to which I answer that over time you get used to things and disadvantages like hot weather are much smaller in comparison to its advantages.

Qatar womens basketball team

Next week: A hijab Look Book!

the hijab and its purpose by mariyah rehmani


director’s note:  Mariyah is a dynamic, fun-loving, artistic, bright and compassionate 15 year old from Pune, India. When she arrived at camp 2 summers ago in NYC she appeared confident and completely at ease wearing her hijab around the city.  Some of her thinkpeace sisters had questions and even judgments, and she addressed them all graciously and with determination to educate them.  As our society becomes more xenophobic and fearful of anything associated with Islam, we think Mariyah’s study on the purpose of the hijab is more important than ever. We encourage you to learn about differences– racial, gender, religious, sexual, economic– and see that differences don’t have to separate us. In fact they can be the beginning of meaningful dialogue that can open our hearts and minds, bringing us together and truly creating peace. It starts with listening and respecting… Please join us as we journey into discovering more about differences every week in our thoughtful thursdays posts… Today we begin with Mariyah’s choice to wear a hijab. We will be posting sections from her ebook over the next few weeks.


The Hijab and Its Purpose

This eBook is intended for the purpose of helping the reader understand what the hijab really is, and what it stands for.  It has come to my understanding that the people around me, and those not around me too, have a very hazy perception of the hijab.  Many people ask me about why I wear it, and even if my dad forced me to wear it.  This inspired me to write about the hijab, and why it is close to the hearts of millions of women worldwide.
Inside, you will find everything you need to know about the hijab; everything from its origin, to its purpose, its message, its types, and even the science behind it! This will give you a holistic idea of what it is all about.  Understanding the hijab, and even Islam is very important in this age.  Islam is one of the fastest growing religions worldwide (“The Fastest Growing Religion in the World Is … –”).  Unfortunately, it is often portrayed in a bad light by the media, and ongoing violence and terrorism is almost always attributed to our peaceful religion. The hijab too has been shunned by many as being “oppressive” and “restrictive”, even though thousands worldwide can testify to it being exactly the opposite. My aim is to help clear misconceptions and preconceptions about the Islamic veil and dress code in general.  Along with this, you will find out more about the concept of modesty and about successful women who wear the hijab with pride.  At the end you will discover a gallery of pictures showcasing how different cultures affect hijab styles and the variation in the hijabs themselves, country to country. Finally, there also awaits a LookBook that portrays just how modern trends are seamlessly integrated with the hijab creating a whole new category of ‘Hijabi Fashion’.  So please do not hesitate, and flip through to find out more about this beautiful concept of the hijab.

hi-jab, (hĭ-jäb′) n.

1. Any of several cloth head coverings worn by Muslim women.

2. The veiling of women in some Islamic societies, customarily practiced in order to maintain standards of modesty.
[Arabic ḥijāb, cover, curtain, veil, from ḥajaba, to cover] (“hijab”)
Many use the following verses from the Holy Qur’an to help describe the requirements for a Muslim women’s dress:

Although this is not commonly known, there are also dress codes for Muslim men to abide and they include covering of the body from at least the navel to the knees and not wearing excessively tight, sheer, or flashy clothing. (  Most rules regarding the Islamic dress code and the verses from the Qur’an that they have been derived from have been interpreted differently by different people. This is why that there is a diverse world of
views and opinions on whether women should wear the hijab or not, or to what extent. This will be touched upon in further detail later in this book.

 Modesty can be defined as “regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress, etc.” or even “the lack of vanity” ( Contrary to popular belief, modesty is not about “how much skin is too much?” or “How much can I leave uncovered until I get into trouble?”  It is certainly much more than what you wear or how you look.  Modesty means acting towards others in a way that is humble and compassionate. Modesty means avoiding vanity and striving to be pure in your thoughts, in your words and in your actions. It means dressing yourself in a way that not only makes you comfortable, but protects you from unwanted catcalls and lustful stares.  Of course, it is not a women’s sole responsibility for what goes on inside a man’s head, but she can certainly make a big impact through the way she dresses, speaks, and carries herself.  Men are accountable for their own thoughts and actions, and they too are expected to practice modesty in all spheres of life.  Ask yourself: “What impact do I want my personality and my appearance to have? What message am I trying to convey to everyone around me?” It is through the very concept of modesty that the hijab tries to make a positive change in society.

Why wear it?

The first important thing to understand about why women wear the hijab is that there is not one universal reason behind choosing to veil oneself. There can be multiple reasons for different people based on what they choose to believe or interpret. Some say the verses in the Qur’an indicate that they are obligated to cover their heads and chests. Others believe that practicing wearing the hijab is the best way to exercise modesty. Some wear it in order to stand as a symbol of their religion, to stand out from a crowd. A lot of people wear the hijab because it makes them feel more confident. Many claim that while wearing the hijab, the feel they aren’t being judged for their looks and rather for their manners, personality or intellect. Most of all, women wear the hijab because they like it, and they want to wear it. The bottom line is; women use the hijab and wear it for a multitude of reasons, each helping a woman grow and succeed in a different way. An article from UK’s Telegraph Newspaper that reads “Feminism, fashion and religion: Why Muslim women choose to wear the veil” beautifully illustrates the point I am trying to make. In the article, numerous women share their reasons for practicing the hijab on Reddit, a popular social media platform: A user named ‘Captain Monkee’ writes:  ”I like to use it to promote feminism, however it is very hard to express it because of how people view it. There ARE a lot of women who are forced to wear it, and I think that’s really wrong, no matter how religious or what country. The hijab is forced in some places in the world, or by certain people – especially men in many cases. I will not deny this. This is not feminism. I want to take this hijab and make it my own. First choose if I even want to cover or not. Define WHY and HOW. I will choose what colours I will wear. What materials. Not just black and white.”

This highlights the freedom that a woman has when she is wearing the hijab. She decides what she wants to do with it. After all, it is HER body, HER head, and HER choice. No one should be forced to do something they do not want to. The user ‘Pharmersmarket’ writes: “I genuinely like wearing it. It makes me feel put together and confident in a weird way. Maybe because it does take a certain level of courage to visibly separate yourself from normal society. To start wearing a hijab I had to stop caring about what other people thought and now I can be proud of that. (6) 10 “It definitely doesn’t stop street harassment, but men do treat you with a bit more respect. I don’t think it’s right to treat a girl differently because of how she’s dressed but it does happen.

She focuses more on what she believes defines being Muslim, or rather helps send a message to others around her. She also emphasises that in the end of the day, it’s a choice; you do it if you want to, or don’t do it. Another user ‘Boggle_leged’, who states she is a lawyer, begins:

“I, as well as most Muslims I know in the West, am not fond of the burka or niqab here, because it could expose an individual to unnecessary harm and harassment. Since there are strong religious opinions that permit just the hijab without covering the face, I personally feel that it is a better choice. (7) 11 In the end, however, as long as that individual has made the decision independently and knows why she is doing something, I respect her decision.” An important thing to note is that the only reason that she is not in favour of other women wearing the burka or niqab is that she feels it causes unnecessary “harm and harassment” to women. I believe that this is something that should be changed. Everyone has a choice to wear what they feel like and express themselves in whatever way they choose, so long as they do not cause any form of harm or hurt to anyone around them. Yet another user, possessing the screen name ’474064′, says: “Personally, I love wearing the hijab. Nobody could pay me enough to take it off. It honestly liberates me because I get to choose how much of myself I reveal to the public. It’s awesome. I have drawers full of a variety of vibrant colours and prints. I match them with my outfits and wear a different style every day. It’s kind of like a beautiful, religious fashion statement.” These are some of the many reasons behind why different women from different parts of the world feel the need to wear the hijab. I hope they not only help in understanding the concept behind the veil better, but also serve to inspire and enlighten.

 next week: different types of veils

Reasons Why We Still Need Feminism by Sarah Connolly

Director’s Note:  Recently thinkpeace girl Sarah Connolly wrote this article for her school’s newspaper.  Sadly, it was met with ridicule by some of her classmates.  Perhaps the reactions that Sarah received were a result of discomfort over the issues she raised in her article, but it is precisely because it sparked a reaction that we need to continue the dialogue about gender equality.  At thinkpeace we believe that boys are equally a part of the solutions to the issues facing girls worldwide. We believe that we are IN IT TOGETHER. Recognizing the importance in us all working together to create the change we know needs to happen, the United Nations has launched a program called HeForShe, a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all. We encourage you all to keep talking to the boys and men in your life about what feminism really means and how they can stand with us for equality. Being a feminist means that you only need to be on board with one idea: All humans, male and female, should have equal political, economic and social rights.  To the critics of Sarah’s article: we ask you to think before reacting. We ask you to look around at the amazing girls and women in your lives.  We ask you to acknowledge their worth and to embrace equality.  We ask you to take the HeForShe commitment and stand WITH us. Imagine!

Why women fighting for their rights is still as relevant as ever

By Sarah Connolly, Editor in Chief

Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”So why do so many people shy away from this word? On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Before you say that the Constitution only states that “all men are created equal,” remember that in the 1700s, men was a universal term used to define all people. A feminist is not a girl who thinks she is superior to all men. The idea is about the real issues and obstacles that women are forced to face domestically and globally. A feminist is someone who fights for equality and human rights. Lately, I have heard a lot of people say that feminism should be renamed. People claim that if feminism is really about equality, then it should be called “humanism.” However, it would be completely ineffective to call the “gay rights movement” the “human rights movement.” Feminism is called feminism because the name addresses the problem at hand. So why is feminism so prevalent in today’s society? In America, women have the right to vote. They can have virtually any job they are qualified for and attend school to get a great education. Feminism is essential if women and men are ever going to be perceived as equals. Before you argue that women and men are in fact equal, consider these six injustices that women face:

  1. Around the world, women are treated as lesser human beings. In developing countries such as Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, women are not allowed to attend school. If they chose to attend, they risk being shot by terrorist organizations or having acid thrown in their faces. The few women that do attend school are not allowed to do so with boys.
  2. In the United States alone, a woman is raped every two minutes. Twenty-five percent of girls are sexually assaulted before they turn eighteen. Sexual abuse goes far beyond the United States. It is perhaps even more prevalent in developing countries where women are poor and uneducated.
  3. Approximately 15 million girls around the world are forced into marriage before they turn eighteen. Some girls are married when they are as young as seven or eight years old to men they barely know. These young girls are neither physically or emotionally ready for such a commitment. Child marriages are a primary source of domestic violence, and younger girls are more likely to have complications in childbirth and contract HIV.
  4. Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, as it is more commonly known, is a destructive operation where girls’ genitals are removed or injured to stop sexual feeling. Operations are most commonly performed on girls before they hit puberty. It primarily takes place in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. FGM operations are extremely painful and can be fatal. FGM is commonly operated without a girl’s consent.
  5. In some countries, the majority of families desire to have a male child. Women are not as valued in their societies, and poor families need male children to get jobs to make money. Sadly, baby girls become a waste of money and resources, and some families kill or abandon their female children in order to save themselves from feeding an extra mouth
  6. Feminism is needed just as much domestically as it is internationally. If a woman and a man have the exact same credentials and work the exact same job, a woman is still likely to earn eighteen percent less money. Sure, we have female doctors, lawyers and politicians, but American society undervalues female workers. Therefore, they are paid less, and there is no reason for this. If a woman and a man have identical qualifications and work the same job, then they should have the exact same salary.

Cheris Kramarae once said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” Feminism is something that needs to be addressed on a large, global scale, we still have a long way to go before everyone, regardless of gender, is seen as equals around the world. However, in the past decade, society has made giant steps toward this goal.

stay here, please (a repost)

Director’s note:   We chose to repost this blog from our Program Intern, GARMIN, following the news of actor Robin Williams’ death. Today was supposed to be the beginning of a new series on our blog called #TakeActionTuesdays.  There are many important things that you can do with your life, but helping someone else believe in their significance, their value…  supporting someone in need of finding reasons to LIVE… that is truly invaluable. Too many people we know suffer from depression. If you, or someone you care about, are feeling empty or hopeless, please reach out. No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. In the U.S., call 1-800-TALK (8255) or go to . Internationally, go to and click on HELP. You matter, you really do. We are so glad you’re here. Check this out  and…thank you for living! A dear friend of ours  posted this quote today: “ I pledge to love all living things, just love them, help care for them have compassion for them. As long as anything living thing draws breath may I remain to ease their suffering.”  Peace.

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About a year and a half ago I heard a poet say “if you’re not writing the things you need to write then it’s a waste.” Those words clung to my soul and I have consciously tried to live them each day since and yet last week when I sat down to write this post, the words stopped at my finger tips and refused to come out. I know why. I know why, I have fought myself on this many times– putting thoughts or feelings to paper makes them real, it gives them life, it creates proof either for or against you and the part I often forget- it liberates you.

Like Ash Beckham {in the TedX talk above}, I have lots of closets. There have been plenty I have come out of and I could tell you about any number of them- the big ones and the small ones; the queer one, the dyslexic one, the artist one, the chronic disease one, the autistic brother one, and so on and so forth. And yet, there is one closet that I have stepped out of only partially. I say partially because my immediate family and friends know and yet, it’s not a thing I talk about, mention, bring up, or advocate for blatantly. It’s a thing that still sits behind a clear sliding glass door.

Two weeks ago I celebrated my one year anniversary of living. I know what you’re probably thinking: “GARMIN, aren’t you twenty-one, how can you be living for only one year?” Just hang tight. Not long before the time of Halloween and Hurricane Sandy last year I found myself standing about ready to jump out of my fourth floor bedroom window out on to the busy East 29th Street in New York City. Fear, undealt with events, trauma, flashbacks, and masked depression had brought me there. As I stepped one foot up to the ledge, my phone rang. It was my friend. She said “Hey there buddy, what’s up?” Frantically not knowing what to do I said, “I’m standing on the ledge of my bedroom about ready to jump out. I’m done.” Slowly, calmly and gracefully she talked me down from the ledge, and back into my bed and then put me on hold while she called our mutual friend who could help me. The next day I managed to get myself out of bed and went to a support meeting. A week later I found myself home at the kitchen table sobbing and recounting what had happened to my parents who had no idea. And there it was: suicide. Attempted suicide. One more breath and I could have been dead.

Just like that I had another closet- a closet of a past suicide attempt. When people asked why I was late to studio or why I randomly went home on the weekends, I would make up something instead of saying “oh, I had to see my therapist or I was having a hard time getting out of bed because I was sad.” And then not long before my one year anniversary of living I decided I was done- this time done in a different way. I was done hiding. Hiding that I had once attempted suicide or that I am on anti-depressants or that I still go to therapy to help undo all that crap that led me to that ledge. I decided that the next time mental illness, depression, suicide, or any related topics came up I was going to say something. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wait long. In one of my classes this fall, upon talking about bullying and suicide in the art classroom, a girl said “well, it’s the person’s fault if they get to that point of committing suicide.” I interrupted her and I said, “IT WILL NEVER BE MY FAULT THAT I WAS STANDING ON THAT LEDGE.” I continued on to support my statement and the room fell silent. There I was. Stepping out of my closet and choosing to ‘throw my grenade’, as Ash describes it.

I wish I could tell you that I was met with “Can I have a pancake?” like Ash. Alas, unfortunately it’s not always like that.  And that’s ok. The point is the fact that you have the guts, grit, bravery, and courage to throw your grenade, to put it out into the universe, to go liberate your heart, and to live into your authenticity. It’s not easy. In fact anyone who tells you that coming out of any closet is easy is lying. There is a reason we have stayed in our closets for far too long- it’s a scary world out there. It took me three months to tell my best friend I am queer and nearly a year to tell my parents, and these are people who I knew without a doubt in my mind would continue to support and love me.

While I personally love, love, love this video for all its content and ideas, I think she glosses over the moment in which you do actually step out of the closet. It’s liberating. Seriously, liberating. The only way I can describe that feeling is like flying through the Mexican jungle on a zip line with your arms wide open, smiling, and giggling, combined with the anticipation of Christmas and your birthday, winning a million dollars, and crossing the finish line of a marathon.  Seriously. Open your arms, take that step, PowerGirl, and hurl that grenade as hard as you possibly can. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Another Note from the Director of thinkpeace workshop:  I first met GARMIN not too long after the event she describes. We were participants at a workshop on white privilege, power, and social change. I was captivated by how honest and open, curious and supportive, focused and determined she was, with her self and with others. We spent 2 1/2 days together, learning and discussing and holding each other accountable. On the last day of the workshop we all faced each other and told each other what we appreciated about the person across from us. When I got to GARMIN it was just so easy: I appreciated her integrity and grit that was so beautifully blended with a giant, warm, sensitive heart. It was clear that she  was going to reach out, help others, share of herself, and live authentically. When she asked if she could intern with thinkpeace, I was delighted to look into her friendly, mischievous and highly alert eyes and say, YES. I am so glad that she is here, alive and ready to live a great big life as a thinkpeace powerGirl!

what you resist persists

Director’s note:  At thinkpeace workshop we encourage girls to embrace their truths: those qualities about themselves that are fundamental to feeling good about themselves. Sometimes it’s easy to let other voices get inside and create self-doubt. Holding onto our truths is important to standing in our own strength in the face of pushbacks from others. Lately, intern GARMIN has realized the power of knowing and owning her truths. It’s an ongoing process for each of us. 

“What you resist persists” by GARMIN

During my last yoga teacher training weekend we had a grueling 2-hour hip-opening practice. Our teacher kept saying, “What you resist persists” meaning that whatever we kept holding back from would continue to be there.

In her acceptance speech for the John Steinbeck Award, MSNBC host, activist, PowerGirl, (and my big girl crush) Rachel Maddow, said this about being out as queer,

As a general rule, if you can be out, you really ought to be out because, A) you will be happier, being closeted is a sad thing to be. It also makes you vulnerable. When you are closeted people can always have something to use against you and so you are never actually operating from a position of strength even if you feel like coming out is something that would make you vulnerable in the world, being closeted is a much more vulnerable thing to be. You can never speak from a position of strength unless you are speaking from a position of honesty.

While this is the speech that pushed me over that metaphorical edge to come out to my parents, Maddow’s last line, “You can never speak from position of strength unless you are speaking from a position of honesty” is the line that popped up again for me last week.  These past two weeks have been hard for me. I installed my thesis and then it has been one event after the next: openings, meet the artist, showcases, and more events– literally non-stop. While there have been happy, exciting, and liberating moments, there have been just as many frustrating and annoying times. Our class of 11 is disconnected, and consumed with what we call in yoga teacher training, “a concern for looking good,” which basically means they will do whatever they can to make themselves look good and everyone else look bad by playing the “ame” game- shame, blame, and complain.  I decided that it wasn’t worth my energy to continue to be around people that brought me down. You see, I value myself, my power, and my strength and when I was putting myself in a position of powerlessness by being around people who didn’t value me I was taking myself out of my life. I wasn’t speaking from my position of strength because I wasn’t in my full honesty and truth of myself.

In typical GARMIN fashion, I walked right up to my thesis teacher and said, “I’m not coming to the group meeting of the class anymore because it’s bad for my mojo. I value myself, my strength, and my power.” She said, “OK. Have a great day!”

And just like that I was standing back in my full power.

However, just like the hip-opening practice “what you resist persists”– I had been resisting initiating this conversation with my thesis teacher. I had been frustrated for some time and it had to get to a point of me realizing its persistence to do something about it. When I surrendered to what was put on offer (the hip opening practice), initiating the conversation, it wasn’t so hard. Holding back was actually harder.

I think we as young women hold ourselves back ALL the time. From my experience, we hold back for a variety of reasons: we play small so others can play big, we don’t think we are worthy, we are operating out of fear, etc. In this past week’s U.S. version of TIME magazine, the cover highlighted Beyoncé, pop mogul, mom and PowerGirl. In the closing paragraph, writer and Facebook VP Sheryl Sandberg wrote,

In the past year, Beyoncé has sold out the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour while being a full-time mother. Her secret: hard work, honesty and authenticity. And her answer to the question, What would you do if you weren’t afraid? appears to be “Watch me. I’m about to do it.” Then she adds, “You can, too.”

Step into your greatness PowerGirl!

what do we mean: ‘never again’?

It has been 20 years since the 1994 Rwanda genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a 100-day rampage.   Following our work with One Million Bones, Students Rebuild, and CARE over the past two years, on raising awareness about ongoing genocides, the thinkpeace community is deep in thought and conversation about what happened in Rwanda, is still happening in Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Syria and the DRC, and what lessons have really been learned that can help prevent future atrocities. Since World War II, the international community has said “never again,” a yet our failure to act has continued to cost lives.

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Memorials across Rwanda are constant reminders of the brutality that destroyed the nation. In the United States there seems to be little coverage regarding this anniversary– and even less discussion. Last night, on Facebook, I saw that a friend had changed his profile picture to the Rwandan flag, in honor of the victims and  survivors of the genocide. He has spent time there for his work, and loves the people and the land. No one knew what his picture was for– what it meant to him, personally, to celebrate a rebuilding Rwanda. And yet, to the children born during or after this time in Rwandan history, awareness about genocide is vital. “Never again” must stand for something. We must know what happened and why… and see that it’s not over and we must not stand by again.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has urged the international community to learn from its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and to take stronger action to confront current crises, like the conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. “The international community,” he said, “cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will required to actually prevent them.” The UN was not effective in preventing the Rwanda genocide, much less in stopping it.  The international community’s silence was wrong. Much more could and should have been done–  instead, peacekeeping troops were withdrawn when they were most needed.  “The world has yet to fully overcome its divisions, its indifference, its moral blind spots,” he said, citing the atrocities that occurred in Srebrenica in 1995, and the current conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic. ”There is a truth to the human condition that is as alarming today as it was 20 years ago; the fragility of our civility. The bonds that hold us together can swiftly disappear.”

So here’s the question: when we say “never again” what do we really mean? What can we do to end genocide? How can we strengthen the “bonds that hold us together” in a world that seems full of anger, righteousness and extremism? What role can you play? When you see or hear about any human being (actually, any living creature) in need or distress, SPEAK UP!  Celebrate diversity in your every day life. Failure to act is not acceptable. When we say “never again” it means that each and every one of us takes a stand. As we laid bones on the National Mall last summer as a visual petition against genocide, we felt it– the connection to others who had been brutally killed because they were different. We asked ourselves: underneath it all, aren’t we the same? Looking out at the Mall covered in one million symbolic bones, we cried for the blood spilled, the lives lost, and the damage done to future generations. There is another way. And together we must find it. Never again, means that we must be accountable to each other and to promoting peace, love and understanding.

“We really do belong to each other.” -Naomi Natale


meet a wannabe thinkpeace girl

I have a dream… that someday any girl who longs to connect with the global girl community and learn what she can do to help heal the world will be able to come to thinkpeace workshop summer camp.  This year, in particular, I have been touched by the stories of two girls who have reached out to share a little of  why they want to be thinkpeace girls. One is a brave and bright girl from Afghanistan whose family left behind the difficulties in their home country to start a new life in Michigan and the other, who is a compassionate and concerned 15 year old from Indonesia. In forty-five days we will see if the efforts of our US thinkpeace girls to raise funds will cover the trip for one of these girls… It’s not easy to be a grassroots organization full of teen girls with hearts of gold  but limited resources. Still, we will try. Because Grisella and Hadia need to be heard.  They have voices that can tell stories of things other girls can’t imagine.  Voices that can open minds and hearts to new perspectives and possibilities. We’ll be talking about our fundraising campaign on facebook, twitter, instagram and here… hoping that not only my dream can come true, but perhaps theirs as well.  Imagine!
Today I’d like you to meet Grisella. Grisella contacted thinkpeace via twitter after seeing a tweet about our summer camp in NYC.
Dear Kelly,
Sorry to bother you
My name is Grisella and i am from Indonesia
I want to ask some things about the summer camp
Is the Summer camp held yearly ? i wish it is because i can not join the camp this year because of the flight fare is too expensive and i have not saved my money for it and oh how much is the camp fees ?
That is all. Thank you very much for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.
Best Wishes,

I wrote her back and told her all about camp and asked her about what she cared about, thought about, and told her a little about my kids.  She got right back to me:

Yeaaah! I’m so incredibly excited for the summer camp next year oh my God! Hahaha. I’m going to be 15 this year and i’m in my last year on junior high. Well, i can say i care for a lot of things -not to brag or anything. Since, i live in Indonesia i started to think there’re a lot of things to be fixed. People here are barely well educated. They can’t afford for school fees. That’s why Indonesia stays the same.  They don’t make any better change and even worse they seem like they don’t care. And there’s health problems. This one really hurting. Bunch of people from small area come to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, looking for job and because of a lot of them didn’t get good education it’s difficult for them to have a well-paid job. Then, because the bills are more expensive than the wage, they can’t afford to buy a house but they still need a place to stay right? To solve it they build houses in the river banks, they use the river’s not-so-clean water for their daily needs such as bath, laundry, and even to cook and drink. I am also concerned about global warming. Why don’t we start to plant trees ? Like one or two trees are already helping the environment right ? Well, that’s about the conditions around me. Globally, i am really concern about bullying. Bullying is almost happening in every school all around the world. The bullies usually are not aware that they are hurting someone else. They are not aware of their words, their actions. They might think that by bullying someone it is proof that they’re strong or they are really envious because other person can enjoy life while they can’t. They might had a bad/dark past. That’s why i think every bullies should not be judged or punished. We must talk to them softly and tell them that what they’re doing is totally wrong and what they do can make the person they bullied commit a suicide. I also support noh8 campaign. Well i guess everybody should support this one because love is all we need. Why need to hate while you can love someone ? I’m 100% sure this world will be a so much better place if we do that. And there’s child labour. I think this is the worst problem ever! Children are supposed to be at school, learning things and socialising with their friends and not to work like adults. They usually do hard jobs which is really really bad for children. I don’t really know how i can solve this because this usually happen in Africa right ? And yeah I’m still under my parents guidance and it seems impossible to solve this by myself though. One last thing i want to stop is racism. Everyone is precious in every skin complexion just don’t judge everyone only by their looks.

But still i really want to stop bullying and child labour.
Well thank you so much for the information. Sorry if my english are terrible. You know, it’s not my language so yeah..
While we may not be able to get Grisella here in time for this year’s camp, we are determined to find a way– for next year. So stay tuned for more information on how to help a girl like Grisella or Hadia realize her goal, to be a thinkpeace girl! They see and feel the issues facing girls globally (and boys too, actually). Together, girls are such a big part of the solution. Global girl voices, and hearts, and hands, working together might just be able to CHANGE THE WORLD. Imagine!

take a deep breath

  •                                                                                                                                                                                         This is part one of my to-do list for the next 12 days. Things you won’t see on this to-do list include: eat sushi for breakfast, care for dying cat, sleep, read bedtime stories, drive in the country listening to TSwift, discuss politics, and be 90% technology free and yet, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing since Friday. I think the universe has a way of telling us to (excuse my language) slow the f*** down. 

I don’t know about you— my life is slightly out of control at the present moment. And by slightly, I mean really. Really out of control. There are only so many hours in the day.  And our go-go-go culture expects us to get everything done, on time, and with 100% accuracy all. the. time. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.  I decided months ago to take this weekend off, to go see some friends, see my favorite slam poet and PowerGirl Andrea Gibson perform, and to then go home for the night, sleep in my own bed, get a detox push, and hop on the next flight back to DC. Alas, come Sunday my train to go home was delayed and then we got stuck somewhere between Rochester and Albany and what was supposed to be a 4 hour train ride turned into a 6.5 hour soul-searching-mojo-finding-session on the train. Continue on to Monday, I was supposed to be on a flight back to DC-  oh, don’t you know, DC got 9 inches of snow and my flight was canceled. I then tried to get on a different flight for Tuesday and last night at 10pm I got a call saying that flight was canceled. I’m tentatively scheduled to be on a flight for Wednesday morning.

Now, prior to maybe a month ago this whole fiasco would have been just that, a fiasco. I would have been so mad, I would have been screaming out to the world “HELLO UNIVERSE. CAN’T YOU SEE I HAVE A THESIS DUE IN 12 DAYS? I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS. WOULD YOU JUST SUCK THE SNOW BACK UP AND UNCANCEL MY FLIGHT AND PUT ME BACK IN THE STUDIO? THANKS!”  And yet, this time I literally can’t do a single thing. I don’t have my computer, I don’t have any books, I’m not in the studio, and no planes are moving and so, I’m here. Grounded. Quite literally. Feet on the floor, being still and slowing down, and looking my overachieving-perfectionism in the eye.

Often talked about here on the blog PowerGirl Brene Brown says this about perfectionism: “When perfectionism is driving, shame is always riding shotgun — and fear is the annoying back seat driver. We struggle with perfectionism in areas where we feel most vulnerable to shame. So we’re all comfortable saying, ‘I’m a little perfectionistic,’ which is code for ‘I do things really well’ — but I’m not comfortable saying I have shame. It’s a way of thinking that says this: ‘If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule.’ All perfectionism is, is the 20-ton shield that we carry around hoping that it will keep us from being hurt.”

Woof. Let that sink in for a moment. I’ll wait.



Really. Let it sink in.


She hits it right on the head. I’ve been living in the perfectionism mindset about my thesis. My thinking goes something like this, “If I do a perfect thesis then a perfect collector will buy my work and then I’ll have money in my bank account and then I’ll be able to go to Mexico on a perfect vacation and then I’ll be able to come back perfectly all blissed out and then my life will be perfect.” Do you see how many times I say the word perfect in my thinking? WAY. TOO. MANY.  My high school advisor at one point said, “Why are you trying to fit in, when you were born to stand out?!” HELLO. TRUTH BOMB. In the past few days my thinking has changed to “Ok. Deep breaths. Your thesis will turn out exactly how it’s supposed to turn out. There are plenty of people who will have a ‘perfect thesis’ there is no need to add yourself to that category. Now, go take a nap and drink some green juice and it will all be ok.” WOAH. Big difference there.

Finally, for one more reinforcement— Germany based PowerGirl-run graphic design/social practice art project ‘Work is Not a Job’ believes that what you create is more important than what you do. When you wake up excited, full, and fresh you create more exciting things and in turn, when you create more exciting things the world changes. I don’t know about you but I don’t create exciting things when I don’t sleep because I’m too busy ‘perfecting’ the hell out of everything. And when we don’t sleep we become what my friend Ellen calls “a walking safety hazard.” I don’t want to be “a walking safety hazard” perfecting everything, I want to be out there knee-deep changing and shaking things up.

Now, I don’t know what the ‘thing’ that you try to perfect the hell out of is: it could be your thesis, or it could be your relationships or your AP Exam, or your college apps, or your sleep schedule— I have no clue and yet, my guess is that ‘perfecting’ it has only left you exhausted and frustrated. And so, just as a possibility for this week, what would happen if you let go of perfecting your life? What would you gain? What could come of it?

As always, send your thoughts, comments, and questions.