Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part interview with two of the founders of the Curls, Coils, and Sisterhood conference that recently took place in the United Kingdom.
When you have natural hair, and especially if you wear a hijab, how do you care for your hair? What practical haircare and hair styling techniques should you know to create protective styles, keep your hair healthy and set yourself up for the best hair and hijab days? Three women in the United Kingdom, after reflecting on their personal experiences and a survey one of them conducted about natural hair care, decided something needed to be done to help educate and support women with natural hair.
Last May the Curls, Coils, and Sisters one-day conference debuted in the UK, drawing in more than 100 participants from London and the adjacent cities of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and others to learn about ghusl (the Islamic ritual bathing and cleansing a Muslim woman must do after her period ends or after she has intimate relations with her spouse before she can pray), styling and product, and how these three areas pertain to natural hair care.
The conference was organized by the 4c_Hijabi
(Rahma), who uses her platform to help Muslim women find practical haircare solutions and hijab styles; Muna, who is the founder of Covered’N’Curly
, a brand dedicated to supporting individuals embarking on their natural hair journey with an emphasis on serving Muslim women; and Jennifer Ogunyemi, the founder of Sisters in Business, a platform empowering female entrepreneurs and co-author of “A Muslimah’s Guide to Healthy Hijab Hair
I spoke with Rahma and Muna about what experiences led to the creation of the conference, how the conference created important connections for women who felt unheard and underrepresented, and why they chose to focus on ghusl, styling and product.
This is part one of a two-part interview. Stay tuned for part two in which we’ll be talking about some of the common challenges around caring for natural hair, debunking myths and more.
Tell us about those who came to the conference – how many participants, where did they come from?
Rahma, co-founder of the conference and also the 4c_hijabi on Instagram.
Rahma and Muna: The event was attended by a total of 108 participants, including attendees, volunteers and vendors. Interestingly, we also had a sister who live-streamed parts of the event, [and] sisters [who watched from] Saudi Arabia, who were amazed and found the content beneficial. We pray that one day we take Curls, Coils, and Sisters worldwide.
How did you choose the three conference sessions?
The ghusl session was led by Rahma, while [I] facilitated the styling session. Enitan
, a trichologist (a specialist who studies diseases or problems related to hair and scalp), conducted the product session.
Rahma: We handpicked these sessions because we knew they were major pain points for Muslim women – access to the Islamic education and guidelines for hair care through ghusl [and] access to the foundational science of hair care and hair loss through Enitan's session on porosity and her hair services. [And then] practical and day-to-day application of this knowledge from a Muslimah’s perspective through Muna's session on protective styling.
What factors or experiences led to the creation of a conference focused on natural hair within the Muslim community?
Muna: The lack of hair education specifically tailored for Black and Muslim women was one of the key factors that led to the creation of the event. This was driven by the demand within the community for knowledge and resources regarding hair care for Black and Muslim women.
This was also evident in the "Black Muslimah Hair Care Experience
" survey, [which has now been taken by more than] 2,700 Black Muslim women from over 70 countries. More than 60 percent shared that lack of knowledge was a barrier to a healthier relationship with their hair. More than 50 percent shared that the time it takes to research and apply that knowledge was a barrier, and 49 percent shared that their budget was a barrier to acquiring healthy hair care. Also, 41 percent shared that access to the right products affected their hair care goals.
What was even more concerning was the women who shared feelings of anxiousness about how their spouses would [think about their] hair due to the negative perception of Afro-textured hair, cultural biases, and women's lack of knowledge on how to care for their hair. Even more heartbreaking was seeing that out of the 220 women who wore locs, a significant percentage (40 percent) had their faith questioned because of it.
For example, one survey participant shared that she was told that "if you have locs, you are imitating Rastafarianism. … But I got them for easier maintenance … “
Another survey participant shared that she was told “locs are imitating kuffar (unbelievers)" or “won’t allow water to penetrate every strand” (when it comes to ghusl) or “revealed the shape of my hair (the bumps), thus my awra (intimate parts of one’s body) and I [therefore] have no haya (inherent sense of modesty or shyness).”
Muna: Additionally, our personal experiences and challenges with hair care played a significant role in recognizing the need for an event focused on addressing these specific concerns within the Black and Muslim community. To add to this, each organizer has embarked on their personal hair care journeys, encountering challenges along the way. Factors such as relaxer usage, heat damage and blindly following trends led to significant hair damage, compounded by the absence of accessible resources and reliable information.
Consequently, it becomes crucial for us to not only represent but also serve as examples for Black and Muslim women in regard to hair care, providing them affordable access to the guidance and support they need. We all start from somewhere, right?
What goals and aspirations did you have in mind when organizing this conference?
Rahma and Muna: When organizing this event, our main goals were to foster a sense of community among attendees, to promote self-love, acceptance and understanding of natural hair among sisters, and to educate and empower them. Additionally, we aimed to inspire more sisters to pursue careers in fields related to hair care and provide them with the necessary encouragement and support to do so.
After distributing a survey to gather feedback from the attendees, two recurring themes stood out. First, many expressed their desire to be part of a community of sisters who relate to each other and where they fit in. Second, numerous sisters expressed aspirations of becoming trichologists, hair coaches, or starting businesses that cater to the hair care needs of Black and Muslim women. These responses are truly remarkable, as they clearly demonstrate that we successfully achieved our goal of delivering a meaningful and impactful event for the attendees.
How did the conference celebrate and promote diversity within the Muslim community while addressing natural hair topics? What sort of feedback did you receive from conference attendees?
Rahma and Muna:
The event celebrated and promoted diversity within the Muslim community by incorporating Black and Muslim-owned businesses and sponsors. The hair brand sponsors were Black-owned (Camille Rose Naturals
), Black-founded (Mielle Organics
) and Muslim- founded (As I Am
). And of course, Muslim-founded and -owned (Haute Hijab
All our featured speakers, social media representatives, hairstylists and educators were also from a diverse spectrum of Black backgrounds. Even our vendors, down to food
providers, were hand picked with an aim to showcase the power of community and female empowerment. The event was also held and advertised in the event hall of a mosque and community centre. This helped foster our outreach to a diverse network of Muslims.
The feedback received from conference attendees highlighted the importance of these inclusive efforts and the positive impact they had in addressing the specific needs and concerns of Black and Muslim women. This is what is needed in our community.
Here’s some of the feedback we received:
- “Being in a room full of Black Muslim sisters in an event specially curated for us and our experiences with our hair [was wonderful]. The room also had such a mix of ages and generations which was so lovely to see! I came alone but did not feel alone during the event, which is a testament to the vibe they curated!”
- “[I loved] being in a safe space surrounded by Muslims sisters who I didn’t know, but [felt] very comfortable.”
- “It’s not too late to build a positive relationship with my hair as a means of growth and self care.”
- “You don’t need to neglect your hair just because you wear a hijab”
Even non-Muslim business owners [in attendance], like Kayleigh
Benoit, were able to see the importance of events like Curls, Coils, and Sisters. Kayleigh told us, ‘’Change is generational deep. Seeing children in the room was beautiful, and the identity/association of our hair starts when we are young. I hope to have daughters who I can take to events like these” She also shared that she has been taking a more active role in making her brand
more inclusive following the event.
What sort of role do you believe networking between Muslim women with natural hair, or a natural hair conference like this one, can play in fostering self-confidence and empowerment for Muslim women?
Rahma and Muna: Creating an event like Curls, Coils, and Sisters not only creates a safe space for Muslim women to learn about hair care but also gives them a platform to network with other like-minded sisters. Having Black Muslim sisters leading an event of this nature is crucial because of the lack of representation in the industry. Attending an event where you are taught by people who look like you instills self-confidence and empowerment, knowing that you are in capable hands. It reinforces the belief that you can take better care of your hair and that there is a supportive community standing behind you.
And, being in a room with people [who are] here for the same thing naturally makes one feel more confident. At our event there were so many women from different walks of life, all here to learn, to feel empowered and to leave educated. And that is exactly what happened.
Check back for part two of our interview with Rahma and Muna where we discuss some of the common challenges faced by women of color in managing and styling their natural hair and debunk some of the myths around natural hair and hijab.