Why This Teenage Girl Is Campaigning For A New Emoji

A teenager is campaigning for an emoji to represent the millions of women around the world who wear hijabs.

After not seeing herself represented on the emoji keyboard, 15-year-old Rayouf Alhumedhi, a Muslim who is originally from Saudi Arabia and lives in Berlin, decided to take matters into her own hands.

She drafted a proposal to Unicode Consortium, the company that develops software and controls which emojis are created and approved.

The idea came about during a WhatsApp conversation between Alhumedhi and her friends, she told the Washington Post. They decided to start referring to each other using emojis rather than their names, which was fine for her friends who don't wear headscarfs, but it was impossible for Alhumedhi.
“I wanted something to represent me, alongside the millions of women who wear the headscarf every day, and pride themselves on wearing the headscarf,” she told the Washington Post.

She wants to see herself represented in emoji form because, as any young person will know, “It’s the new language,” she added, and we are increasingly using them in place of words.

Slowly but surely, emoji are becoming increasingly diverse. A wider range of skin colours is now available, providing a more realistic representation of society.

But there is still a long way to go, according to Alhumedhi. Writing in her proposal draft, she said she applauds Unicode "for the diversification of emojis in recent years”.

“However, this does not mean it should stop now," she added. "With the amount of difference in this world, we must be represented."

Alhumedhi originally wrote to Apple earlier this summer proposing her idea, but failed to gain any traction. Then after stumbling on an article outlining how to propose emojis to the Unicode Consortium, she got in touch with them and they replied to help her develop the idea so it can be formally considered.

The hijab would be a "compound emoji" that could be added to existing human emoji, reported the Washington Post. It would work in the same way as the gender-diverse professional emojis proposed by Google employees earlier this year.

The hijab emoji will be formally considered in November and could be announced as a new addition to our phones as early as mid-2017.

However, Alhumedhi has anticipated the potential backlash against her idea. “There will be people like, ‘It’s such a trivial topic, why are you worrying about this?’," she said. "But once you wrap your head around how influential and how impactful emoji are to today’s modern society, you’ll understand,” the Washington Post reported.

But she believes it will be worth it if her proposal is ultimately successful. “550 million women pride themselves in wearing a headscarf — and it’s not just Muslims but Orthodox Jews and Christians, too," she told Buzzfeed.

"That there could be something to represent them — that this image could be given to people all around the world — it’s amazing and incredible if I could be the person to help do that.”

More from Tech


R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
A look at the subcultures around the world that colour what we wear — and why.
Watch Now
The craziest trends, most unique treatments, and strangest subcultures in the beauty world.
Watch Now
Explore the world's most vibrant cultural and culinary centres—in 60 seconds, of course.