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This 15-Year-Old is Fighting for Representation One Emoji at a Time

As Europe and the United States struggle with multiculturalism and Islamophobia, a 15-year-old Saudi girl sees a new opportunity for representation—through the emoji.

Rayouf Alhumedi, who now lives in Berlin, Germany, has proposed adding a headscarf emoji to be included alongside Apple’s extensive collection of everything from the Easter Island head to a ticket icon. 

The idea for the emoji came earlier this year, when Rayouf and her friends decided to represent themselves in a group chat using emojis. While her friends were able to find matching cartoon portraits, the 15-year-old muslim, who wears a headscarf, found nothing, according to The Washington Post.

That’s when Rayouf decided to take matters into her own hands. She sent Apple a short note, but didn’t hear back. A few months later she stumbled upon a Mashable article that taught her the basics of emoji proposal.

Now several months later, Rayouf has developed a proposal which she expects to present in November to the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit corporation that reviews and develops new emojis, according to BBC.

While you would think proposing an emoji would be simple, Rayouf proposal is more than seven pages and includes links, graphs and other evidence arguing the importance of a hijab emoji. Unicode expects the emoji will be available in mid-2017. 

The 15-year-old, who had never written anything longer than a lab report before this project, believes emojis are a way to promote representation and inclusivity. 

"In this day and age, representation is extremely important,” Rayouf told BBC. 

"There are so many Muslim women in this world who wear the headscarf. It might seem trivial... but it's different when you see yourself on the keyboard around the world. Once you experience that, it's really great."

Kristin Tajlili is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, where she studied Journalism, Graphic Design and Creative Writing. As an undergraduate she wrote for various different student publications. Kristin also enjoys sleeping, collecting postcards and eating ALL the burritos. Her favorite food is cheese.
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