Zahra Pedersen

Zahra Pedersen | The Healthy Hijab

My story begins in 2006 when I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 19. The diagnosis and subsequent treatment meant that several years later, I would suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Because of my medical history, I was not keen on taking medication to treat my mental illness, so instead I started doing research on natural ways to self-heal and that's how my interest in diet and fitness came about.

I set up The Healthy Hijab in 2014 because I wanted other women to find strength and power in maintaining their health. I didn't want to set up a company 'just for profit' but wanted to genuinely help those who needed it. That's why I decided to set up a company targeting Muslim women specifically.

I am a Muslim woman and it was important for me to set up a company that would benefit this powerful yet hugely underrepresented part of the UK population.

My journey so far as a Muslim personal trainer has not been easy and I doubt the future will be either. Being a Muslim woman on social media, doing fitness videos and speaking up draws the attention of many - Muslim or otherwise. Seeing firsthand the naivety and ignorance of some people made me want to break the mould even more by breaking past only doing fitness and diet and helping shed light on subjects that don't get discussed often in the Muslim communities - subject like mental health, not wearing or removing the hijab as a Muslim woman, interfaith discrimination and so much more.

In the short amount of time that The Healthy Hijab has been alive, there have been many great successes also. From recognition on TV, radio, lifestyle magazines and newspapers to being involved with charity work and collaborating with other female Muslim lead startups and even speaking at and hosting women's only events in the UK.

I'm extremely grateful for what The Healthy Hijab has become and hopeful for what the future has in store.