Halima: ‘The next generation of women are going to dream even bigger and crazier and reach heights that we couldn’t have even dreamt about’

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  • Halima is an ambassador for #TOGETHERBAND Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, using her platform to raise awareness and to eradicate modern slavery, trafficking and child labour.

    Sustainable luxury brand, Bottletop, has been a huge talking point this year, with their #TOGETHERBAND campaign making the most noise.

    The movement is aiming to raise public awareness around the 17 Global Goals and inspire action to achieve them.

    The Global Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030, devised by the United Nations in 2015. But to achieve these 17 global goals, we need awareness around them, something that has proven difficult.

    Bottletop’s answer? The #TOGETHERBAND campaign, launching 17 friendship bracelets representative of each goal.

    Setting out to humanise the Goals, the brand, with founding partner UBS, is inviting everyone around the world to choose the Goal that matters most to them and share it with someone important to them.

    With every purchase, 1 kilo of ocean plastic will be removed from the ocean and 100% of profits from each #TOGETHERBAND sold will be used to fund life-changing projects working to advance the Goals.

    From David Beckham to Michelle Yeoh, the #TOGETHERBAND has boasted some impressive ambassadors, with the latest high profile name to join the Bottletop fold being Halima Aden.


    You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Halima. The model, activist and UN ambassador was born a refugee, raised in an UNHCR camp in Kakuma, Kenya, after her family fled Somali during the civil war. She has gone on to become the first hijab-wearing runway star.

    The 22-year-old is the definition of a future shaper and she’s using her power and platform for good.

    ‘I’m so excited to announce that I will be an ambassador,’ Halima told Marie Claire’s Digital Features Editor Jenny Proudfoot. ‘It’s for decent work and economic growth and the goal is to achieve the big zeroes of the world by 2030 – zero poverty, zero hunger, zero HIV, zero discrimination against girls and women. I mean, these are ambitious goals but I am confident that we will get there.’

    Jenny sat down with Halima to find out more about the collaboration…

    What drew you to the #TOGETHERBAND project?

    Since the very beginning of my career, I have been focused on combining fashion with activism. I have always been thinking of collaborations with brands and organisations that have the same values and that are in line with my messaging. I mean, me and TOGETHERBAND – boom, it’s the perfect marriage, especially given my background.

    I am a child refugee, and I spent the first seven years of my life in Kakuma. I am someone who has seen it, lived it, experienced it, so I know how important it is to have the 17 sustainable goals and what it can mean for the communities that need it the most.

    You’ve broken so many boundaries. How does it feel knowing lots of little girls will grow up with you as a role model?

    It’s incredible. But even if I had taken more of a traditional route, I would still want to be a good role model, for the little girls in my family alone. That’s how I look at it, but now I have a lot of little girls to guide – I have to think globally now as my girls have extended all over the world. It’s so exciting. I’m always thinking of what I can do to inspire them and how I can instil confidence in them.


    What message do you want to send to young girls everywhere?

    ‘Don’t change yourself, change the game’ – that’s something I’ve always said. The right people are going to accept you, support you and love you for who you are – your values. You don’t have to fit the mould. I think that when you’re young, there’s a real pressure to fit in, especially when you’re growing up with a lack of representation. So I want to challenge everyone to be who they are and wear their identity proudly.

    Why should we all be unafraid to be the first at something?

    I always tell people not to be afraid to shake things up and be groundbreakers – change-seekers. In order to change something you have to go out and do something that has never been done before. I was the first to wear a Hijab and Burkini for Miss Minnesota USA, but then I came back one year later and there were seven girls wearing a Hijab. It wasn’t uncommon anymore. When I was growing up, my brain couldn’t have wrapped itself around modelling in a Hijab like I am today. I couldn’t have dreamt it, because it didn’t exist. And when you can’t see something, sometimes it’s hard for you to visualise it – and it’s even harder to visualise you doing it. Try something. Go with your heart.

    I am so happy for the girls coming up after me. Hopefully they’re going to dream even bigger, even crazier, even more exciting than I ever could have. I want them to go to places that I couldn’t have even dreamt about and reach heights that we haven’t even thought of yet. I’m excited.

    You are a beacon of hope for young girls. How important is hope for the women of the future?

    I think hope is something we should all have. My mum used to always say that hope is like your heartbeat. The day you stop living is the day you lose hope. So it’s something that I wish for everybody, not just for women. My family were refugees but we had hope – something that nobody could take from us. It was the one thing that we held onto. Hope is almost like vitamin C on a day that you’re fighting a cold, it’s that extra boost that everybody needs.

    What is one thing you would like to change for women?

    Just one thing? Wow. More economic opportunities and entrepreneurship. Take my local community in Minnesota for example – in the last five years, I’ve seen so much growth in what women are doing and achieving. And I’m not just talking about the women in my neighbourhood – take women from Somali for instance who are maybe first generation refugees and have gone on to open businesses, transportation companies, etc. and reach incredible heights.

    There was this one woman from my hometown. For seven years she would stand outside grocery stores and give out samples of a sauce she made. One day someone came and tested her samples, realised it was incredible, hooked her up and now this woman has sold her company and become a success story herself. There are super women all around me!


    How important is it for us to use our voices to support other people?

    It’s the right thing to do and it takes nothing from you. It costs absolutely zero to give shine to other people, especially people who need it. So I think more of us should be doing it. I need to do a lot more with my platform in order to showcase others. We should all be striving to do more and we should all highlight when people and brands are doing the right thing. That’s why everyone should support TOGETHERBAND. Give it to your loved one, share it, wear it, spread the word.

    I always think my career isn’t really mine to keep, it’s mine to pass on, to inspire other girls to become even stronger leaders, stronger advocates, stronger women in general – so they can then too spread it on.

    What can we achieve if we raise each other up?

    What’s possible? It’s endless. The sky. I’m personally so blessed to have strong women around me. I’ve always had strong girlfriends, my mum is the epitome of strength – the women in my life just uplift me, boosting me up on my worst day when I’m feeling the least confident. I always want to do that. I want my Instagram to be a safe place where girls and women can come and like feel good.

    What the UN sustainable goals represent isn’t far from the childhood that I had in a UNHCR camp. So hopefully it can be a good representation and reflection of Halima as a persona and not just a fashion model.

    BOTTLETOP recognises Halima’s work as a UNICEF Ambassador for children’s rights and
    like Halima hope to challenge attitudes and encourage change whilst supporting people
    living in difficult circumstances. As well as empowering artisans through the creation of its
    collection, BOTTLETOP continues to support health education projects empowering young
    people in Kenya, Brazil and Nepal through the BOTTLETOP Foundation.

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