“Burkini Island” Is Where Muslim Girls Learn To Swim

Many people in the area possess this skill.

The Panje Project aims to teach Muslim locals in Zanzibar how to swim. (Photo by Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

A cluster of islands off the east coast of Africa known as Zanzibar archipelago is home to locals who greet you with that Disney-made-famous-phrase, “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for “no worries”).

It’s also home to “burkini island” where Muslim women learn how to swim.

A predominantly Muslim society, Zanzibar is filled with folks who don’t know how to swim, and many of these people are women.

A 2011 boating accident that saw most on board drown was cause for Khahija Sharriff, a community member, to create “The Panje Project,” which aims to offer any and all swimming and water safety lessons.

At first only 20 students signed up, but now the organization has equipped some 7,000 people with the skills to safely swim.

Sharriff received pushback at first when it came to educating women and young girls. Older folks in the villages had a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that these women needed this education- it was a matter of life and death.

Once a respected elder enrolled his own daughter in the classes, more followed suit.

A new full-length swimsuit was designed for the female students which helped them to feel less self-conscious and uncomfortable.

In 2018 over 630 women learned to swim through Sharriff’s Panje project. She’s happy that a new generation of Zanzibari people won’t have to live in fear of the water around them.

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