Manal Rostom, the woman who changed the perception about Hijab, was born and raised in Kuwait. Even though her parents, Egyptians, do not support her decision to wear hijab. She chose to do so despite so much pressure from every corner. She has become an inspiration for women across the region for her stance and has influenced the decisions of not only women but many other entities in the gulf region. For these reasons, we have chosen to include her in our list of gulf influencers and share her life story for your inspiration.

Early Life

Manal was born in Kuwait and she was raised there as well. As a child she used to watch
documentaries which usually portrayed hijabi women as boring and uneducated, even as a child Manal would question the rationale behind such perceptions. So she decided that she would one day challenge these stereotypes and do something about the situation.
Manal would admire the girls who participated in sports after school and so from a very young age she was herself interested in the field of athletics. She completed her school and earned her bachelor’s degree in pharmaceuticals in 2001.

Rise to fame

Manal rose to fame after she created a Facebook group called Surviving Hijab. She gathered more than 40000 followers in two months on the group. The purpose of this group was to gather women who supported women wearing hijabs. Moreover, this group allowed the hijabi women to share the challenges that they faced in choosing to wear hijab. Today the group has over 6 lac members. Manal wants to support the participation of hijab wearing women in sports.

Manal’s route to Nike

The followers that Manal gathered on Facebook boosted her confidence immensely and she decided to reach out to big brands for promoting hijab wearing women in the field of sports. So with this intention she started to send out emails to various people in big companies. Luckily, her email found the right person in Nike and that is how she featured in Nike campaign that was specifically designed for the Middle East.

Nike went on to launch Nike Pro Hijab that was designed for hijab wearing athletes. This broke quite a number stereotypes around the world and especially in the Middle East. Facebook has awarded her Community Leadership award in 2018 for her contributions in the field of athletics and leadership skills.

How she made the difference?

Seeing her rise in the Middle East and due to her efforts, the world governing body for basketball decided to lift its religious head covering ban. According to Manal Rostom, she still does not believe that her efforts would prove to be so fruitful. Indeed, her story is inspirational and she has made a huge difference in not only her own life but in the lives of those around her.
Manal Rostom today is followed by many a woman and she says that she still has a long way to go. Manal says that the hijab never limited her abilities to achieve something in life, it has always been a personal choice, and she will always look at it that way. She is not against women not wearing hijab but she says that it should be a personal choice and it should not be imposed upon women by any governing body or regulatory authority.