Once a refugee, now a supermodel, Halima Aden takes on children’s rights

Supermodel Halima Aden, once a child refugee herself, is now an ambassador for UNICEF. (Shutterstock)
Updated 14 August 2018
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Once a refugee, now a supermodel, Halima Aden takes on children’s rights

  • Aden was announced as a UNICEF ambassador in July this year
  • The 20-year-old was the first model to sport a hijab at fashion weeks in both New York and Milan

JEDDAH: Somali-American supermodel Halima Aden, an ambassador for UNICEF, is using her voice to advocate for children’s rights.

The former child refugee, who came to the United States during the Somali Civil War in the early 1990s, shared a video on her social media account on the subject with the hashtag AChildIsAChild, writing: “@unicefusa helps to keep children safe and protects their rights, no matter where they are. That work is more essential now than ever, with nearly 50 million children uprooted across the globe. Who do you hear?”

Aden, who has 680,000 followers on Instagram, was announced as a UNICEF ambassador in July this year. Aden has described her appointment as a “lifelong dream” and her “proudest accomplishment to date.” Her mission is to “put children first.”

As a refugee herself, she possesses a unique understanding of the needs, hopes and dreams of the 30 million children around the world who have been forcibly displaced by conflict.

The 20-year-old was the first model to sport a hijab at fashion weeks in both New York and Milan. She made history by being the first woman to wear a hijab at a Miss USA state pageant and was the first model to wear her hijab on the covers of major women’s magazines, such as Allure, British Vogue and Teen Vogue.

Aden was born in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya, after her family fled civil war in Somalia. She lived there for seven years with her parents before moving to the US. Growing up, UNICEF played an important role in her life as it provided her with an education.

She has earlier stated her concerns about immigrant children who are being separated from their families at the US border.

The pioneering Muslim model’s passion for helping refugees, particularly children, has taken her to many places. The activist most recently visited her refugee camp in Somalia, where she shared her story with hundreds of children.

“Although the children here (in Kakuma) may be refugees, first and foremost they are children. They deserve every opportunity to flourish, to hope, to dream, to be successful,” she had said.

Earlier, she traveled with UNICEF Next Generation from Mexico City to Chiapas, the southern Mexico state bordering Guatemala, where she met with migrants living at local shelters and migrant women attending village schools.

In March this year, Aden inspired students at UNICEF’s Annual Summit in Washington, DC by speaking at the Women’s Empowerment and Leadership panel session.


The Six: Arab and Muslim models in New York

Updated 16 February 2019
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The Six: Arab and Muslim models in New York

DUBAI: Arab and Muslim models took the runways by storm at New York Fashion Week, which closed on Sunday in the Big Apple.

Bella Hadid

The Palestinian-American model was a smash during the Michael Kors show, which paid tribute to 1970s fashion, rocking a sparkling black blazer with feathers on the sleeves.

Gigi Hadid

The hectic supermodel lifestyle didn’t get in the way of Bella’s sister, who was seen on the streets in her retro runway hairdo after walking the Michael Kors show.

Halima Aden

This Muslim model turned heads when she closed the Christian Cowan show with an oversized black and neon pantsuit and a chain-link rhinestone hijab.

Noor Tagouri

This Libyan-American journalist took her confidence to the next level when she decided to put down her pen and walk the runway for US brand Rebecca Minkoff.

Nora Attal

The British-Moroccan model kicked off the week in elegant leatherwork by French brand Longchamp and walked the runway for Brandon Maxwell.

Shanina Shaik

The Australian model, who was raised a Muslim and whose father is half-Saudi, modelled for Vietnamese designer Nguyen Cong Tri.