Fostering Female Empowerment: Saudi Arabia’s Initiative in Women’s Sports
The realm of sports has long been dominated by men, especially in conservative nations like Saudi Arabia. However, as the winds of change sweep across the desert nation, sports have become a driving force behind a burgeoning women’s empowerment movement. Leading this charge are trailblazing women who, despite countless challenges, have etched their names in the annals of sports history.
The Trailblazers: Sarah Attar, Al Hasnaa Al Hammad, Farah Jefry, and Sarah Al Jumaah
Sarah Attar, Al Hasnaa Al Hammad, Farah Jefry, and Sarah Al Jumaah aren’t just names. They represent hope, resilience, and the spirit of a new Saudi Arabia. With a surge in female sports activity—increasing from 8 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2019—the kingdom is steadfastly progressing towards its goal of 40 percent of the population exercising once a week by 2030.
Alanoud Mohammed Algheriri, a Portfolio Manager at the Ministry of Sport (MOS), voices this transformation eloquently, “I’m looking forward to it—to being part of the change.” The Diversity & Inclusion initiative spearheaded by the MOS aims to empower women’s sport in myriad ways—from increasing access to facilities and coaching courses to bolstering female sports federations.
Saudi Women in Sports: The Impressive Facts
– The 2018 royal decree permitting families to enter stadiums resulted in a 152 percent spike in attendance at sporting games.
– An inspiring 25 federations now support a national women’s team.
– Of the federations, 30 have at least one female board director.
– 67 percent of Community Sport Groups now include female members.
– The number of registered female athletes in federations surpassed 2,400 by the end of 2019.
– At the 2019 Gulf Cooperation Council Games, 66 female athletes showcased their prowess in eight sports, clinching 11 medals.
– 21 Saudi female athletes shone at the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, securing 29 medals.
– Al Hasnaa Al Hammad made history, clinching a gold in fencing during the Asian Cadet Circuit – Riyadh 2019.
– 2019 also saw Saudi women participating in the World Bowling Women’s Championship for the first time.
– In 2020, 72 female athletes represented Saudi at the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, bagging 12 medals.
The Mahd Sports Academy: Nurturing the Next Generation
For Algheriri, the mission is personal. A former soccer player herself, she laments the lack of opportunities in her time but is determined to ensure the next generation doesn’t face the same hurdles. The ambitious Mahd Sports Academy, unveiled in July 2020 by Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, promises to be a game-changer.
Slated to be among the world’s largest sporting academies, the institution, with branches in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Damman, will cater to both boys and girls. Children aged 6 to 14 will receive training in over 20 sports. In a strategic move, the academy will coordinate with over 10,000 physical education teachers to scout for budding talents in elementary schools.
Championing Local Talent
Prince Abdulaziz’s words at the unveiling resonate with the ethos of the project, “We have numerous talents that need development… It’s time we pay attention to our local talents and work on their improvement.” This sentiment is echoed in a tweet by Mahd, which encapsulates the academy’s vision: “It’s time for you, for her, for every talented kid.”
Conclusion: A Promising Future for Saudi Female Athletes
The journey of Saudi female athletes, from pioneers like Sarah Attar to contemporary stars like Algheriri, embodies the shifting sands of time. These women are not only redefining sports in Saudi Arabia but are also paving the way for the next generation. As they shatter ceilings and inspire thousands, the future of women’s sports in Saudi Arabia has never looked brighter.