Stories Curated by Rebel Girls
Growing up, Founé Diawara felt like an outsider because of her cultural identity. One day her perspective changed for the better —find out how a viral social media campaign led her to become the co-president of a women’s football community.
Founé Diawara. Les Hijabeuses, French. Born: 4 October, 1999. Illustration by Lauwaart.
As the second oldest of seven siblings, Founé was a born leader. Her curious nature made her an excellent role model for her younger siblings. She was always learning new things—often many things at the same time! In 2014, the Women’s World Cup inspired her to take up yet another new hobby: football.
At fourteen, Founé joined a football club for the first time. Being part of a team was exhilarating! To her, each movement—dribbling down the pitch, passing to teammates, and sinking the ball into the net with a whoosh—felt like a beautiful, choreographed dance.
‘We want women to be able to have all of these identities.’
After a year of practicing with her team, she arrived at the field, ready to play in her first real match. But as she stepped out onto the pitch, the referee stopped her.
You can’t wear your hijab, the referee said. It’s not allowed.
Founé’s heart sank. Her hijab was an important symbol of her Muslim faith and a part of her identity. She couldn’t take it off to play. Founé spent the game on the bench. She felt sad and angry.
‘I just wanted to play’, she said. ‘I just wanted to bring something to my team.’
Instead of sinking into her sadness, Founé let her natural leadership skills kick into high gear. She heard about a campaign dedicated to stopping discrimination in women’s sports and jumped at the chance to be part of it.
The movement began with an Instagram video about France’s ban on wearing hijabs in football. Founé watched as comments from all over the country flooded in. Women shared their own stories of discrimination and how the ban forced them out of the sport.
Founé continued to fight for the cause by becoming co-president of Les Hijabeuses, a football community where women are welcome to wear their hijabs. Between training sessions, Founé is in university studying human rights. She’s working toward a future where women never have to sacrifice part of their identity to do what they love.