Teenager Pursues and Wins Emoji Campaign

When people occupy a position of privilege, they often fail to recognize a lack of representation in popular media. Television, film, and even phone emojis inadequately portray millions of individuals. When Rayouf Alhumedhi saw that there were no emojis that looked like her, she wanted to do something about it.  

In the fall of 2017, millions of women around the world finally had an emoji to identify with. This Vienna high school student proposed a new emoji to Apple: one wherein the depicted woman wore a headscarf. Apple seldom updates their emoji keyboard, but the original figures, until that point, lacked diversity in skin tone, activity, and identity. 

While messaging friends in 2016, Alhumedhi was baffled when she searched her phone for an emoji who looked like her but failed to find one. “It’s something important to my identity,” she said. The young woman, who hails from Saudi Arabia, appealed to Apple, and then to the Unicode Consortium, which controls emoji standards. 

Alhumedhi’s campaign quickly gained steam, eventually earning the support of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Eventually, Apple announced that the emoji was on its way. Alhumedhi says that this decision is a step forward in celebrating diversity and accepting the Muslim faith around the world. She believes the new emoji addition will influence the world indirectly “once people who are against women wearing the headscarf, of against Islam in general, view such an emoji on their keyboard.” 

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