Emirati women have made great strides in sports with 23,000 nationals participating in events and activities last year and 7,000 taking to Yas Marina Circuit every week.
The increase is particularly evident in the number of Emirati women footballers that has climbed from 800 players in 2014 to 2,300 players this year, boasting the first Emirati female football coach to boot.
At the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Emirati swimmer Nada Al Bedwawi raised her country’s flag at the opening ceremony becoming the first Emirati woman swimmer to represent the country at this level.
At the fourth International Conference Of Sports For Women held in Abu Dhabi on Monday, under the theme of inspiring generations, the message was clear – women have become empowered in sport.
Emirati women are no longer in need of a government initiative or a push to achieve their goals, according to Shamma Al Mazrui, the Minister of State for Youth Affairs. “They have taken their future into their own hands,” she said.
The purpose of the conference, she said, was to spread the message that women have a leading role in inspiring future generations.
“We talk about empowering women, a topic that began dozens of years ago with the support of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak. A few years ago people believed women couldn’t achieve in various areas, but our sisters and mothers have proven that it is not the case. Women today in the UAE have no need to wait for an invitation to make an achievement or seize an opportunity - women in the UAE are seizing the opportunities for themselves,” she said.
National Editorial: A level playing field for women is the end goal
Twenty-one-year-old Maryam Al Mazrouei is an ice hockey player. She is one of around 20 Emirati women who play the sport. “My father fully supported me. He was an ice hockey player when he was in college in the US.” The team participates in regional and international tournaments and will next compete in Canada in February. What they are asking for is financial support and recognition.
“We play ice hockey for free. It is a hobby and we really would like more ice time and to pursue this as a profession,” Fatima Al Ali, 27, said. They get only two days a week on ice since the only ice rink in Abu Dhabi is booked for the male team.
Football player, Amal Al Rabeea said only a few people turn up to watch their games compared to the men’s games. The 26-year-old began playing football when she was in the sixth grade. Since then she has gone on to play in international and regional tournaments. “It is more acceptable in society for Emirati women to play football,” she said.
“Support and acceptance is no longer an issue,” said the first Emirati football coach, Houriya Al Taheri. “We are now preparing a new generation of young female coaches and we have reached to a level where we are now training men to become coaches.”
The two-day conference was opened by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of State for Tolerance, who explained the crucial role that sports plays across the country in addressing key societal challenges.
“Women’s sports reflect the commitment of women to grow mentally, physically and to create happiness and contribute positively to society,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
“No wonder, therefore, that this leading conference, which includes elite participants from across UAE and around the world, is organised under the patronage of the Mother of the Nation, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak”
Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and President of The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood also launched “Professional Trainer”, on Monday - a sports program for women which promoted women’s empowerment in sports. Rym Al Falasy, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood announced the launch at the conference.
The program allows women trainers to obtain an international certificate in basic sports training, comprehensive sports training, or health and nutrition training for the following categories: Children’s Sports Trainer; People of Determinations’; Sports Trainer; Elderly’s Sports Trainer; Women’s Personal Sports Trainer; Military Sports Trainer and Sports Club Trainer
“The UAE empowers, provides opportunities and facilitates all means of success for women locally, regionally and internationally. This is part of its strategy to guarantee women's rights and support their creativity, thus contributing to the progress of the its society,” said Ms Al Falasy.