MOGA: the new ethical headscarf brand empowering women and supporting education in pakistan
There are currently 5.1 million Pakistani children of primary school age who are out of school, according to the organisation CARE Pakistan. Of the poorest 20% of the population, two out of three young women do not go to school – it is one of the more severe situations for women’s education in the world.
Sri Lankan born Azahn Munas holds this issue close to his heart. His father was a strong advocate for women’s education in Sri Lanka and he has been surrounded by strong and successful women his whole life. When his father passed away three years ago, Azahn was reminded and inspired by his mindset of helping others – thus, the inception of MOGA.
MOGA is an online retailer that sells spectacular 100% silk headscarves. Azahn looked at the current market and as a result, says he ‘wanted to create a brand that catered to young women who celebrated individuality.’
Azahn launched the business this year and is donating 20% of all profits to CARE Pakistan, who work to help young women in the country receive education.
Azahn moved to Australia when he was seven years old as a result of the civil war that had been waging in his home country for 25 years.
‘The conflict was becoming even more deadly and beginning to impact our daily lives,’ Azahn tells me over a cup of warm coffee at Chapel Street’s Yellow Bird. His family moved to Australia in hopes of securing a safe and more prosperous future.
‘My earliest memories of Melbourne were of Chapel St and the vibrant and eclectic laneways around the city. I was always fascinated with the vibrancy of the bright and bold colours,’ he says.
The bold colour blocking designs of MOGA’s scarves are no doubt inspired by the street art of Melbourne’s laneways, with their monochromatic and vibrant patterns.
Azahn’s brand comes at a tense time in Australian society, with racial stereotypes, Islamaphobia and stigma against women wearing headdresses and other cultural garments.
‘Headscarves in particular have been a rather controversial topic as of late. We want to remind people, however, that ultimately everyone has the right to wear a headscarf in whatever way they choose to. As a result, it should be something that brings people together as opposed to keeping them a part,’ he says.
Azahn hopes that his brand can bring women from all cultures and religions together so they may celebrate their individuality and style. He wants to break the racial stereotypes against women who choose to wear religious headwear. By celebrating each woman’s choice to wear whatever garment aligns with her religion or culture, MOGA hopes to empower women who wear the scarves – all while supporting women in Pakistan.
Barely two years ago, a controversial discussion in Australian Parliament almost resulted in women in burquas and other facial coverings to be enclosed in separate glass spaces, for “security reasons”, in public galleries in Parliament House.
Meanwhile, Reclaim Australia and conservative politicians are spouting xenophobic hatred against Islam and Muslims. Azahn, like most rational people in Australia, is hoping this ends as soon as possible and that all cultures and religions feel safe and welcome.
MOGA’s inception coincides with Dolce & Gabanna’s launch of its first range of high fashion hijabs and abayas earlier this year. There has been a consistent increase in spending on Muslim fashion over the last few years and this is expected to continue to grow.
Azahn’s stunning scarves respond to this increasing call in the market for more Muslim fashion options, but as there are countless ways to wear them, people of all religious and cultural backgrounds are encouraged to experiment with them.
‘I would love for MOGA to one day become a community or movement of like-minded people who have a shared vision to make a difference in the world. Ideally, we would like to share stories and spotlight the incredible things women do all over the world. Once we sell our first few lines of scarves, it would be great to partner with CARE and create a short film or documentary to see where the money we donated goes towards and who benefits from it and share some of these incredibly powerful stories with our fans.’
MOGA is launching its first collection, SPECTRA, at www.moga-fashion.com soon and is available for pre-order until then.