Through her newly launched ‘Wrap It’ organisation, the Year 11 student at St Michael’s College, is encouraging people to acknowledge the wearing of a headscarf as being a “normal thing”.
“Wrap It aims to remove the stigma associated with headwraps in Western cultures so that we can all see our similarities rather than our differences, because this is what creates a greater humanity.
“I am hoping that in years to come the headscarf will be seen as a usual thing and not something that makes you unique or different from society,” she told The Southern Cross.
With the assistance of St Michael’s, Rana is making preparations for an event to be held at the school to raise awareness about headwraps. On that day students will be asked to show their support by wearing a head or neck scarf, scrunchie or ribbon.
Admitting that she aspires to be the “next Michelle Obama”, Rana is not afraid to stand up for social justice causes. She is a Lasallian Youth Leader at the college and also a Youth Ambassador for the Australian Refugee Association.
Her family, which includes six other siblings, fled Eritrea in 2010 to escape religious persecution as Muslims. They spent six years in a refugee camp in Sudan before being accepted as refugees in Australia.
After attending local primary and secondary schools, Rana started at St Michael’s mid-way through Year 8. She said while her peers are very supportive of her wearing a headscarf, an incident on a public bus earlier this year made her realise that not everyone in the wider community is so welcoming.
Catching a bus to her part- time work in the city, Rana was “shocked” when a male passenger began shouting abuse and accusing her of being a terrorist. At first she didn’t understand he was talking about her, but then realised she was the only person on the bus wearing a headscarf.
Now through Wrap It, she is telling others how a woman wearing a headscarf should be viewed as someone “wrapped like a beautiful gift”.
“As I settled into my new life in Australia I was invited to birthday parties and other celebrations and I quickly learned the extreme beauty associated with wrapping,” Rana explained.
“Think about it, gifts are never given to others wrapped in newspaper, they are always beautifully presented with bows and ribbons and brightly coloured wrapping.
“And that’s how I think of my headscarf, not as a sign to people like the man on the bus that I’m a terrorist, but a beautiful wrapping for the gift of who I am as a person.”
Rana, who is being assisted in the Wrap It project by mentor Susan Knapp from In2edAfrica, has been busy creating flyers and brochures, setting up an Instagram page (@Wrapit21) and designing colourful headscarves to be sold at markets.
She has used the money earned from her job to buy the material for the scarves and her mum Amina is sewing them. Rana said proceeds from sales will be donated to girls living in refugee camps so they can purchase scarves to wear to school.
Through her personal experience with racism, Rana has found a strong voice and earlier this year she spoke at an International Women’s Day breakfast and a school event to raise awareness.
St Michael’s English teacher, Tara Henry, has been supporting Rana with her speeches and said there was not a “dry eye in the house” after her presentation to staff and students.
“She’s incredibly hard working and diligent – and somewhat of a perfectionist – and she’s always had a strong sense of social justice,”
Ms Henry said.
Rana is happy to speak at other schools about her project – for more details contact Susan Knapp at email@example.comJump to next article