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News / Churches & Religion

Teaching inclusion with dolls

Company makes hijabs to help kids learn about diversity

By Courtney Linder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Published: March 25, 2017, 6:05am

PITTSBURGH — Gisele Fetterman, who started the Braddock Free Store and co-founded the excess food collection service 412 Food Rescue, goes to great lengths to instill values of egalitarianism in her three young children.

Back in 2013, before state-level bans against same-sex marriage were overturned, her husband, Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, performed the first gay marriage in Allegheny County in their home, although the union would not be legally recognized. Gisele Fetterman — originally from Rio de Janeiro — told her oldest child, Karl, now 8, that the ceremony would be between two men. He simply responded, “So what?”

Now, amid fallout from the Trump administration’s revised travel ban, daughter Grace, 5, doesn’t understand why none of her dolls resemble her friend Salma’s mother, Safaa Bokhari, a 30-year-old Muslim from Saudi Arabia who wears a hijab, or a traditional head covering.

“I love that Grace doesn’t understand why someone would have an issue (with veiled dolls),” Gisele Fetterman said.

But while Gisele Fetterman easily found doll-sized glasses for Grace’s Barbies on Amazon after her daughter got her first pair, she could not find a hijab. It was difficult for her to explain to her young daughter why a portion of the population was not represented in her doll collection, which includes an African-American doll and a doll in a wheelchair. As of 2015, Pew Research Center estimated that 3.3 million Muslims live in the U. S.

Out of this frustration, Gisele Fetterman enlisted help from Cindy McCune, a stay-at-home mother of two and artist based in Rankin. McCune, who operates Etsy shop TheBigOh, fashioned Grace’s first Barbie hijab among about 100 others she has made.

Gisele Fetterman’s idea has since grown into Hello Hijab, which will sell doll-sized hijabs for $6 each. The hijabs will be available online at her site, ForGoodPgh.com beginning April 1.

The small squares of fabric are each handmade in varying colors and patterns, mirroring the real-life headscarves.

“If children grow up playing with the dolls and understanding that we’re all different but similar, too, they will be much more accepting adults,” Gisele Fetterman said. For her, Hello Hijab is securely grounded in education.

Each scarf will be packaged with a tag, featuring the Hello Hijab logo and a few lines of text describing the nature of the hijab and why they’re important. The message will be written with positivity and inclusivity in mind, Gisele Fetterman said.