Ghana sisters blending style, tradition for Muslim women

In this photo taken Monday Jan. 22, 2018, Sekina Abam a muslim hijab fashion designer helps a customer to set up a hijab in her workshop in Accra, Ghana. (AP)
Updated 01 February 2018
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Ghana sisters blending style, tradition for Muslim women

ACCRA: Two sisters in Ghana are creating Islamic-friendly fashion from the locally produced fabrics that are wildly popular across West Africa.
Sekina Abam, 27, said it can be difficult for women in Ghana to avoid discrimination when wearing the Islamic headscarf known as the hijab. Muslims make up 18 percent of the population.
She and her 32-year-old sister Nefisa found that many hijab options sold in the markets of the capital, Accra, came from outside the country. None came in the vibrant print fabrics for which Ghana is internationally known.
“I said to myself, ‘Why not come up with something from myself that will meet the hijab rules while using African prints?’” she recalled.
Now she and her sister share a workshop where they turn out colorful headscarves and flowing, conservative dresses. Sekina is in charge of the clothing line known as Libaas Hilaan that includes everything from casual wear to special occasion apparel, while Nefisa directs the Nefeesah Hijab brand.
Hijabs sell between 30 ($6.50) and 100 ($22) Ghana cedis, while dresses and abayas can sell for as much as 850 cedis. To meet the steady demand for their product after five years, the sisters are now helped by their mother and two other workers.
In recent years, Muslim women in Ghana have been able to wear the hijab more freely at school and in the workplace. In 2015, former President John Mahama proclaimed freedom of faith, opening the way for more displays of religion in the secular country.
For the Abam sisters, the struggle is to find the right balance between fashion and Islam, being mindful of tradition while making something that younger women will feel comfortable wearing on the streets of Accra.
“A woman naturally wants to look beautiful, and coming from an African setting where is Islam is minimal like in Ghana here, it’s difficult for her to wear black or something that is print-less, design-less,” Sekina said. “She wants to fit in but she also wants to try to obey God a bit. So I decided to come up with these designs that would meet such needs.
“The idea is to make it easy for our Muslim sisters and mothers to wear their hijab so that they will be always motivated to wear the hijab,” Nefisa added.


Women cancer patients learn makeup tips in new Egypt workshop

Updated 12 November 2018
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Women cancer patients learn makeup tips in new Egypt workshop

  • Workshop is part of a program already in operation in Lebanon and the UAE called “Be Beautiful”
  • Will be launched this month in at least seven hospitals in Egypt

CAIRO: When cancer patient Merhan Khalil had a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy in 2012, her hair started to fall out in the shower. On Saturday she joined a Cairo workshop that teaches female cancer patients how to conceal signs of cancer treatment.
“It helps a lot mentally ... to feel beautiful and to feel that the medicine didn’t change us,” said Khalil, 46, who suffers from multiple myeloma, a blood plasma cancer.
The workshop is part of a program already in operation in Lebanon and the UAE called “Be Beautiful” that will be launched this month in at least seven hospitals in Egypt. It will offer women cancer patients makeup tips as well as mental health support and advice about nutrition.
“When the cancer patient feels that she is beautiful and when she gets proper nutrition that will have a positive effect on her mental state and that strengthens her immune system,” said Hanadi el-Imam, founder of the Hoda el-Imam Foundation, which is organizing the workshops.
She said the aim is to offer the workshops in five Egyptian governorates within a year.
Faten Fawzi, a breast cancer patient who was among a group of five patients learning how to paint their eyebrows and apply conditioner on dry skin at the Cairo Marriott Hotel, said she felt like her hair was burned after chemo.
“I went to my hairdresser and he shaved it off completely and I was devastated and started crying,” Fawzi, 46, told Reuters.
“But after that I put on a chic wig that looked like my hair and you couldn’t tell at all that I had cancer.”
While she recently got rid of the wig, Fawzi said she still paints her eyebrows and cares about her makeup routine because it makes her feel better.
Ghada Salah who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, said she started to experiment with different wigs and colorful hats after she lost her hair to chemotherapy.
“I didn’t want to look sick,” she said. “I didn’t want people to think ‘poor her, she has cancer.’”
The organizers hope to serve 5,000 Egyptian women in the first year, said Dina Omar, a cardiologist and one of the founders of Be Beautiful.
Globally, cancer is responsible for one in six deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Approximately 70 percent of deaths from cancer happen in low and middle-income countries, WHO said.