Sheikha Fatima calls on country to let sports be played without barriers for women

The UAE in recent years has seen strides made for women in several sports, particularly in jiu-jitsu, played by thousands of women and girls, and in football.

Winners of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Award for Women's Athletes and other categories line up at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak yesterday called on the country to “destroy all obstacles in the paths of women” who seek to pursue sports, “thereby improving the quality of life”.

As the third International Conference of Sports for Women opened at Emirates Palace, the wife of the late Sheikh Zayed, founding father of the UAE, linked “two significant outcomes” to women in sports.

“First, that women in sports is an important indicator for societal development, which is absolutely essential for the development of the country,” Sheikha Fatima said in remarks relayed by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak. “And, second, sports without barriers is an important part of the larger concept of a world without barriers or borders.”

“Sports without barriers” is the theme of the two-day conference, held under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima.

She said she is pleased “that the UAE supports sports among women because it plays a vital part in their development” and added that sports competition helps women “achieve a healthy body and a healthy mind, which will help them in their journey of empowerment”.

The UAE in recent years has seen strides made for women in several sports, particularly in jiu-jitsu, played by thousands of women and girls, and in football, where the Football Association has redoubled support of the senior national women’s team, now ranked 73rd in the world and first in the Arabian Gulf, and for age-group football sides as well.

Ahead of the conference, Amal bu Shallakh, a board member of the UAE Women’s Football Federation, said: “Sports in the UAE is supported from the highest levels. Obstacles faced were due to certain traditions.

“These restrictions are now starting to fade, after the community was enlightened and became aware of the importance of sport for women and girls.”

Two panel discussions were held yesterday, one entitled “Development of Community and Culture: The Role that Sports Plays”. Among the panelists was Kelly Holmes, who won two gold medals in middle-distance running for Great Britain at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The second was named “A Blessing in Disguise: Sports and Special Needs”.

Three more panels are set for today from 10.15am, including “Road to the Olympics 2016” at 11am and “Breaking Records, Breaking Barriers” at 12.30pm. The conference is open to the public.

Bu Shallakh said the annual conference “discusses the role of women and sports and supports the women in their, thus far, successful mission that began a long time ago”.

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