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September 27, 2019

The Hijabi Ballers Project: Inspiring Muslim women and girls to embrace their inner athlete

Focused.  Front and centre.  Fighting for what's right

These are words that come to mind to describe the organization Hijabi Ballers and its founder Amreen Kadwa.  A Toronto-based, community-centred sports program that was inspired and shaped by Amreen's own experiences growing up as a Muslim female playing rugby while at the same time wearing a hijab.  When Amreen played rugby, people around her would often tell her that females who wear a hijab shouldn't play sports.  But for Amreen, this was simply not true and her own athletic journey was proof-positive.  Indeed, playing sports while wearing a hijab was not counter to staying true to her faith.  And, it's the intense faith she had in herself to make a difference...to be the difference...that inspired her to create Hijabi Ballers, a multi-sport program that enables Muslim women and girls who live in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) to experience sports and to embrace their own athleticism.  


What's in a name

"The name Hijabi Ballers represents three things: being a female of Muslim faith, being an athlete, and being a boss. The project is meant to shine light on those who visibly represent their faith while portraying themselves as athletes, in the urban diaspora. The word 'baller', an umbrella term for all athletes, holds a strong connotation of being a boss, being successful and being bold". 

(Source: Hijabi Ballers website)

The people behind the Hijabi Ballers

The Hijabi Ballers is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run community sport organization.  It's supported by a talented four member Executive Team, an influencial Advisory Board as well as an active and engaged Youth Council.

"Executive members are responsible for day-to-day operations, logistics, marketing and finance, while committee members provide expertise for programming and events. The Advisory Board consists of some of the GTA’s most active community leaders in the sports and diversity realm. The Youth Council works closely with the Executive team to plan and deliver engaging and impactful programs."

(Source: Hijabi Ballers website)

Get in the game and get in the know

Programs offered by the Hijabi Ballers focus on giving Muslim women a chance to build the skills needed to be successful in any sport, the confidence to try something new, and to see themselves represented as athletes.  Whether it's through basketball and tennis programs, an annual girls-only community sports festival or providing scholarships to access coaching and referee certifications, the organization's primary goals are to inspire Muslim women and girls to play sports; and to make the world of sports a place where Muslim women and girls can not only be themselves, but can have the ability to reach their full potential physically, emotionally and socially.  

Building Community Connections

In late December 2018, the inaugural Hijabi Ballers Community Conference took place at the Ontario Science Centre.  A one-day conference that brought together a wide variety of people from both the sport community and the Muslim and non-Muslim communities at large.  Its purpose was to begin to build greater awareness around the many issues that are unique to Muslim women and girls as they try to navigate a place for themselves in the world of sports.  The conference itself included keynote speakers, informative breakout sessions and a panel presentation of Muslim female athletes who shared their own personal sport journeys.  For the conference organizers, they wanted everyone in the room to take the time to celebrate the organization's success to date and to know that so much more has yet to be accomplished.   By collaborating with others, building awareness through community conversations and networking, and encouraging women and girls to help themselves and each other, the impossible is always possible.

"A consequent goal of the Hijabi Ballers project is to allow the greater non-Muslim community, to recognize Muslim women as individuals who are strong, inspirational community members and to acknowledge their involvement as athletes."

(Source: Hijabi Ballers website)

Partners with Professional Sport

Most recently, the Hijabi Ballers launched their partnership with the 2019 National Basketball Association's 2019 champions the Toronto Raptors and together have created a Toronto Raptors Nike Pro Hijab.  This new Raptors apparel product is a key influential way this NBA organization is able to support the Hijabi Ballers and share the message that Muslim female athletes are a power to be reckoned with and must be visible in the world of sport. 

"Inspired by those who are brave enough to change the game.

(Source: Toronto Raptors Instagram post, September 13, 2019)

Hijabi Ballers:  Seeing is Believing 


"Too often, the athletic talent of Muslim and especially visibly Muslim females is buried under a token minority label, and doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. The Hijabi Ballers video celebrates Muslim female athletes in the Greater Toronto Area by shining a light on their altheticism through various sports. Featured in this video are local athletes who have fought through the challenges of being visibly Muslim female athletes as they integrated into their sports and cultural communities, to transform into phenomenal athletes, women, and lovers of sport. We hope this demonstration inspires viewers to recognize the dedication, passion and true athletic potential of the women in the video and those in their communities. With this video, and many other programs, Hijabi Ballers works to increase representation of Muslim female athletes, in media and in public sport spaces, and strives to not only normalize, but also empower Muslim females to become champions of sport".

(Source: Hijabi Ballers website)

SWSCD Athlete Gallery

As is often said, a picture says a thousand words.  Our photo gallery showcases lots of amazing moments at both the Hijabi Ballers first annual Community Conference and at their third annual Sports Festival.  So much to be celebrated.  So much still to come.


Check out the Hijabi Ballers in our Athlete Advisor, your online business directory for all things active. Explore, rate and review clubs, local community offerings and businesses that help you do your thing.

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