A 16-year-old football player is hoping that her successful campaign, which allows Muslim girls to wear hijabs during physical education (PE) classes at her school, will have a broader impact across the nation.
Umme Kalsoom, along with her friends, launched the campaign in 2021 after feeling “vulnerable” when asked to remove her hijab during PE lessons at Marsden Heights Community College in Lancashire. Her goal was to create a comfortable environment for all Muslim girls.
“I initiated this campaign to bring comfort not only to myself but also to the other girls who faced the same situation. Taking off my hijab when I didn’t want to made me feel insecure and lacking in confidence,” said Umme, who lives in Brierfield, near Burnley.
The requirement to remove the hijab during PE lessons was originally implemented for health and safety reasons, but the school policy has since been changed. Umme, who has been playing football for about four years as part of the Football Beyond Borders (FBB) program, a social inclusion charity, was instrumental in advocating for this change at her school.
Umme and the FBB team held a presentation with the school’s senior leadership, emphasizing the significance of allowing hijabs and the impact on the girls when they are not permitted. Umme received support from many members of staff, particularly Tasneem Hussain, the head of year.
“I approached my head of year, who is a Muslim herself, and she was very supportive and understanding. She helped me further pursue the campaign and ensured my voice was heard,” Umme added.
A short film directed by Alina Akbar in collaboration with creative agency Youth Beyond Borders (YBB), Aurora Media, and Fifa+ showcased Umme’s campaign. In the film, Ms. Hussain expressed her support for Umme and the girls, emphasizing the importance of them feeling supported by the school.
Umme has also engaged with members of Lancashire County Council, and she is amazed by the attention her campaign has received. She said, “I didn’t expect it to reach this level.”
The success of her campaign has led other young Muslim girls to seek advice and guidance from Umme, who takes great pride in being a leader in this movement. She believes her campaign has the potential to make a nationwide impact by breaking down barriers and allowing girls to play football freely.
With England’s national female football team, the Lionesses, preparing for their first match at the Women’s World Cup, Umme expressed her excitement and admiration. She finds football to be inclusive and powerful, as it brings people of different abilities and backgrounds together, boosting their confidence.
FBB has launched a GoFundMe campaign with the aim of raising £100,000 to support 100 girls through their football program by the time of the Women’s World Cup. The campaign can be accessed at: gofundme.com/f/100-days-to-change-the-game.