Mena Nasiri and Zena Nasiri are sitting outside, in front of a garden and pond, smiling at the camera. They both have long brown hair and are wearing glasses, shorts and t-shirts.

Mena Nasiri and Zena Nasiri: Students and CO-Founders of Girls of the Crescent

The #SheInnovates stories team sat down with Mena and Zena Nasiri to discuss the role of women in innovation. Get involved at She Innovates Global.  

#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?

Zena and Mena Nasiri: We are solving the problem of the lack of diversity and representation in literature. In 4th grade, we received a school project to research a person who we looked up to. We went to our public library with female Muslim women in mind who were role models to us, but we couldn’t find any books about them. We realized the same thing occurred in other genres; that there was a shortage of books about Muslim girls.

#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?

Zena and Mena: We started a nonprofit, Girls of the Crescent, to collect books with female Muslim main characters and donate them to schools and libraries. We encountered support for our project from friends, neighbors, school administrators, librarians, and authors. We have collected over $2,000 for our cause which we have used to donate almost 400 books. This support and success spurred the realization of our breakthrough by illustrating our impact on our community.

#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?

Zena and Mena: As young girls with a nonprofit we find that oftentimes we are underestimated or not taken seriously. We overcome that obstacle constantly as we achieve more success and prove to people that we can make a difference despite our young age.

#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?

Zena and Mena: Knowing that we are helping other girls like us to feel included, inspires us to love our work. We’ve had many librarians and teachers tell us that their students were asking for books with characters that looked like them and our donation had helped them experience that representation. We love empowering Muslim girls through books.

#SheInnovates: What do you hope that young women coming behind you take from your work?

Zena and Mena: We hope that young women see our work and realize that they too are able to make a difference despite their age, background, or how they identify. We hope that if they see something in the world that they want to change, they take action and change it to make the world a better place.

#SheInnovates: Why are women in innovation important?

Zena and Mena: Women in innovation are important because it is crucial for young girls to have strong and impactful female role models. When a young girl sees women like herself making a difference, she will feel empowered and know that she can do anything that she puts her mind to.

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Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.