Model and Former Refugee Halima Aden on Immigrant Children and the Importance of UNICEF

20-year-old model and hijaber Halima Aden will not be quiet.

The former child refugee came to the U.S. during the Somali Civil War in the early 90s. And now that other refugees and immigrant families are being torn apart and denied their basic human rights, Halima just can’t stand ideally by.

In her cover interview for Teen Vogue, she said,

“I was a child refugee and I can’t even imagine the trauma that would come from being ripped from my mother. It leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Child refugees are a nonpartisan issue.”

(Despite Trump’s executive order, hundreds of immigrant children remain in limbo, separated from their parents. The administration has no current plans to reunite the families.)

And now that Halima has earned her status as a top model (she was the first model to rock a hijab in both New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week), she’s using her power to help children just like her.

Source: Halima Aden/ Instagram

As the newest UNICEF ambassador, Halima will not only bring attention to children living in peril, she’ll also use her inspiring story to empower girls around the world.

“It took my family years to go through the vetting process to get into the country, but I feel like, ‘OK, I got here. Now what am I going to do with my life? How can I make sure that I’m empowering the girls that will never have that opportunity that I did?'”

UNICEF was a big part of her childhood, so becoming an ambassador was a big deal for her. She told Teen Vogue,

“They always reminded me as a kid that I was not forgotten. I didn’t know what life outside of a camp looked like. I couldn’t even imagine it. UNICEF was [my world]. Before I could sign my own name, when I was literally doing ‘x’ for my name, I could spell UNICEF.”

Her mother even started crying when she found out the news.

Most recently, Halima made the trip with UNICEF back her refugee camp in Somalia. While there, she shared her story with thousands of refugees and told them,

“Although the children here [in Kakuma] may be refugees, first and foremost they are children. They deserve every opportunity to flourish, to hope, to dream, to be successful.”


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Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.