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Sportswear Fitted to the Needs of Muslim Girls

I’m Faith Lapidus with the VOA Special English Development Report.

This Friday, the World Cup opens in Germany. Teams from thirty-two countries will compete in sixty-four games. The champion of the world's most popular sport will be decided in the World Cup final on July ninth in Berlin.

Sports are important for physical health, but they can also educate people. Sports can teach teamwork, conflict resolution and cultural understanding, and improve how people feel about themselves.

These are some of the goals of a project launched by the United Nations refugee agency and Nike, the sports equipment company. The project is called "Together for Girls."

It began in two thousand four in refugee camps in Dadaab, in eastern Kenya. Most of the people in the camps are Somalis who fled civil war in their country in the early nineteen nineties.

The project was created as a way to improve education for girls in the camps. The U.N. refugee agency says that in the first year, new classrooms were built and additional teachers were hired. Students received books and other supplies.

Nike took the program a step further. The American company has designed sportswear for Muslim girls among the refugees. The clothing gives them more freedom of movement than the traditional Somali hijabs they wear around their heads and bodies.

Nike sent a team of female designers to research and create a new hijab for girls who play volleyball. Volleyball is a fast-moving game. It requires a lot of jumping and diving.

The new hijab is fitted yet conservative, so it is culturally sensitive to Somali Muslims.

Nike has said it will provide enough material for several hundred hijabs to be made. The company has also taught girls in Dadaab how to make them using locally produced materials.

Other sportswear makers also have special designs for Muslim women.

Nike is one of several companies represented on a business advisory committee to the U.N. refugee agency. The Council of Business Leaders was launched last year.

Microsoft is also on the council. The computer software company has been working with the agency on a system called Project Profile. This is used to store pictures and detailed records of the people in U.N. refugee camps. A number of Microsoft employees have given their time to help set up the system in more than forty countries.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Faith Lapidus.