When you see a Muslim woman fully covered in her modest dress and headscarf or her hijab, what comes to your mind?
The media’s misrepresentation of female Muslims may influence your answer to that question, but before you do, you should know that there is a group of Muslim women in Nigeria at the heart of the Muslimah Foundation. Far from being the media’s stereotypical image of a Muslim woman, these women are making an impact and playing their parts in contributing to the growth and development of society.
Who are the women of the Muslimah Foundation and why should you care about them?
The Muslimah Foundation started as a virtual community of Muslim women back in the days of Blackberry Messenger. These women were concerned about the well-being of the people in their communities, especially less-privileged women and children, so they used Blackberry Messenger to discuss these issues while sharing their life experiences. When they realised that they needed to stop talking and start acting, they decided to contribute money and register the foundation in 2010 as a fully licensed charity organisation. Over a decade later, the foundation is still active and has touched thousands of lives.
The Muslimah Foundation is no ordinary foundation; it is well-structured with volunteers from different fields who execute different social projects ethically and efficiently. It is no wonder that they have come this far. The vision of the Muslimah Foundation is simply to make a tangible and positive difference to the less privileged in their communities with the primary focus on women and children. They are on a mission to assist the needy and empower them through education and vocational training. It is one of their beliefs that the government cannot do it alone and that everyone has to contribute what they can to the development of our communities.
Twenty-five (25) Muslim women are in charge of making decisions and executing projects for the foundation, and its membership is categorised into three tiers: Platinum, Gold and Silver. The Platinum members are the executive members. The Gold members register through the foundation’s website and engage in social media awareness, fundraising events and community projects if assigned by the Platinum members. Silver members register through the official website or social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and support the foundation’s activities through social media awareness.
Although the foundation has an office in Abuja, it uses its social media platforms as its primary means of contact, advocacy and awareness. All these members, a majority of who are spread across Nigeria, work under the leadership of the president — Miss Aisha Hassan Katina, the 5th president of the Muslimah Foundation — and the vice-president.
The Foundation raises funds for its projects through a minimum monthly subscription of 2000 naira and 1000 naira by its Platinum and Gold members respectively, voluntary donations by members, fundraising events, and donations from businesses and well-meaning individuals. Most of its projects have been executed in Northern Nigeria because the region has one of the worst statistics on poverty, violence, and diseases in the world. However, its charity projects are not for Muslims alone. Non-Muslims have also benefited from them.
For the foundation, which is a genuine and transparent impact maker, project proposals can be brought by members and non-members alike. Platinum members will then vote to approve the proposal, given that there are enough funds to execute such projects. These projects include:
- Building boreholes and wells
- Providing clinics with drugs and medical equipment
- Donating materials like toys, mattresses, and clothes
- Paying off hospital bills
- Assisting widows by providing food items, or in some cases, payment of school fees
- Capacity building through training and grants
- Social development projects like the construction of schools and mosques
A more recent project of theirs is the COVID-19 response executed in 2020. For the project, the target was to feed a minimum of 30 families in different locations by giving them foodstuff, which the foundation did successfully. It also organised COVID-19 awareness programs in state radio stations in collaboration with the US Embassy in Abuja, across nine northern states and in 15 predominant languages of the region for two months.
Also, there was a live radio program on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) that was broadcasted once a week at 8 am for two months, with panelists discussing topics on COVID-19 in Hausa.
Besides the projects mentioned above, the Muslimah Foundation has other projects that it executes yearly. They are:
- Ramadan Food Drive (RFD): The Muslimah Foundation makes the most of this month, one of the most revered months in the Islamic calendar, by setting up food points across the country (the extent of which is dependent on the available resources; financial and human) to give free tasty meals to anyone that comes by. One notable sponsor of this noble cause is the Dangote Group.
- Health is Wealth: Charity for the Muslimah Foundation extends to every aspect of human life. For this reason, they visit hospitals and the sick in different locations, offer to pay their medical bills, as well as donate important items like mattresses, beds, drugs and oxygen machines to hospitals.
- Brighter Future: The Muslimah Foundation believes in empowering the needy, especially women and children. The foundation has been paying the school fees of a group of girls as part of their social intervention. They have access to the girls’ term reports to track their progress and encourage them. As at 2020, the first set of girls graduated from secondary school. This is a feat worthy of encomium. However, only 10 girls were beneficiaries due to the limited availability of funds. Nonetheless, The Muslimah Foundation has found ways to impact other students by donating towards the construction of classroom blocks, refurbishing classrooms, and providing furniture to schools in need.
- Trash to Treasure: Since the primary location for the foundation’s outreach is northern Nigeria, it extends support to internally displaced persons (IDPs) by giving them everyday household items collected through donations. This act goes a long way in alleviating the hunger and distress of IDPs by providing them with basic items they need, as most of them have little or nothing of their own.
- Sadaqatil Jariah: also known as everlasting charity, which Muslims believe they will be continually rewarded for even after their demise. The Muslimah Foundation creates an avenue for this highly rewarding form of charity by receiving donations and using them to do projects that can bring about such reward. These acts include building mosques, planting trees, educating a child, and so on.
- Second Chance: The Muslimah Foundation cares deeply about the well-being of prisoners, especially those wrongfully accused or awaiting trial. Through this project and various acts of donations, they facilitate the release of prison inmates who have been wrongfully charged or who cannot afford to pay bail.
With all that has been said, it is glaring that the women of the Muslimah Foundation are not oppressed women. These are passionate, responsible and dedicated women who care for the needy and less privileged in their communities. They are strong women who are slowly but steadily changing the narrative of Muslim women and are no doubt impacting the society.