Celebrating International Women’s Day: Honoring Women’s Achievements While Embracing Diversity with Abaya or Scarf

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International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated every year on March 8th to acknowledge the social, cultural, economic, and political achievements of women worldwide. The theme for IWD 2023 is #ChooseToChallenge, urging individuals to take responsibility for creating a gender-equal world. This year’s campaign focuses on challenging gender stereotypes and acknowledging the diversity of women worldwide. As we celebrate the achievements of women worldwide, let’s take a moment to honor the traditional Islamic attire of abaya and scarf, which holds significant cultural and religious value in many Muslim communities.

History and Significance of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a global event that traces its roots to the early 20th century when women’s rights activists first proposed the idea of celebrating women’s achievements and advocating for their rights. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, and it has since become a day to commemorate women’s struggles for gender equality and celebrate their accomplishments.

The Islamic Attire of Abaya and Scarf

Abaya and scarf are two traditional Islamic attires that have been worn by women for centuries in Muslim countries. Abaya is a long, loose-fitting garment that covers the entire body, except for the face, hands, and feet. A scarf, also known as a hijab, is a head covering worn by Muslim women to cover their hair and neck.

For many Muslim women, the abaya and scarf hold deep cultural and religious significance. They are seen as symbols of modesty and piety and are worn as a sign of faith and devotion to God. In some countries, wearing an abaya and scarf is mandatory, while in others, it is a personal choice.

However, abaya and scarf have also been a subject of controversy and debate, with some people criticizing them as a form of oppression and others defending them as a personal choice and a way of expressing religious and cultural identity. Regardless of the views, it’s important to respect the choices of Muslim women who choose to wear abayas or a scarf and acknowledge the cultural and religious significance they hold.

Challenges Faced by Muslim Women

Like women of other cultures and backgrounds, Muslim women also face numerous challenges worldwide. Some of the significant challenges that Muslim women encounter include:

Islamophobia and discrimination: Muslim women face discrimination and prejudice based on their religion, ethnicity, and cultural identity. They are often subjected to verbal abuse and violence, which can lead to social isolation and psychological distress.

Access to education and job opportunities: Muslim women often face barriers in accessing education and job opportunities due to cultural and societal norms. They may face limited opportunities for career advancement and equal pay compared to their male counterparts.

Negative stereotypes and misrepresentation: Muslim women are often portrayed negatively in the media, with stereotypes and misrepresentations perpetuating harmful and incorrect assumptions about their culture, beliefs, and values.

Lack of political representation: Muslim women are underrepresented in political leadership positions, which limits their ability to influence policies and decisions that affect their lives.

Celebrating Muslim Women’s Achievements

Despite the challenges faced by Muslim women, there have been many inspiring Muslim women who have made significant contributions to society in various fields. Here are some examples:

Malala Yousafzai:

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban for her advocacy work and continues to fight for girls’ education globally.

Dr. Amina Wadud:

Dr. Amina Wadud is an American Muslim scholar and feminist who has challenged traditional interpretations of Islamic texts and advocated for gender equality within Islam. She is the author of several books, including “Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective.”

Nawal El Saadawi:

Nawal El Saadawi was an Egyptian feminist writer, activist, and physician who fought against female genital mutilation, gender-based violence, and oppressive patriarchal systems in Egypt and around the world. She authored numerous books, including “Woman at Point Zero” and “The Hidden Face of Eve.”

Ilhan Omar:

Ilhan Omar is a Somali-American politician and activist who made history in 2018 by becoming the first Somali-American and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress in the United States. She is a vocal advocate for social justice and human rights, particularly for marginalized communities.

Zainab Salbi:

Zainab Salbi is an Iraqi-American humanitarian and women’s rights activist who founded Women for Women International, a nonprofit organization that helps women in war-torn regions rebuild their lives. She has authored several books, including “Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam.”

Honoring Diversity in Abaya and Scarf:

As we celebrate the achievements of Muslim women worldwide, it’s essential to acknowledge the diversity that exists within the Muslim community regarding the attire of abaya and scarf. There are many different styles, colors, and materials used for abaya and scarf, depending on the country, region, and personal preferences.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, the traditional abaya is typically black and made of lightweight fabric that is suitable for the hot climate. In contrast, in Iran, abayas are often colorful and embroidered with intricate designs. Similarly, hijabs or scarves come in different styles, such as the traditional headscarf or the turban style.

It’s important to recognize that there is no one “correct” way to wear an abaya and scarf and that Muslim women have the freedom to choose the style and material that best represents their personal preferences and cultural identity. By embracing diversity and respecting individual choices, we can promote inclusivity and celebrate the richness of Muslim culture.


Celebrating International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recognize and honor the remarkable achievements of women around the world. It is also a chance to acknowledge and embrace the diversity of cultures and traditions, such as wearing the abaya and scarf, that enrich our global community. By promoting inclusivity and empowering women of all backgrounds, we can create a brighter future for generations to come. Let us continue to celebrate and support women in all aspects of life, and work towards a more equitable and just world for all.

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