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Empowering women through sports

Dubai: In May 2015, the UAE Government adopted a decision to establish the UAE Gender Balance Council to ensure that Emirati women continue to play a leading role in the development of the nation. The Council was charged to oversee the implementation of best practices and processes to ensure federal institutions achieve their gender balance targets, which will support the UAE’s vision to become one of the world’s top 25 countries for gender equality by 2021.

Since then, the UAE has made significant progress in its mission to empower women in the workforce across various sectors and the nation’s women can today be classified as role models for the rest of the world. There is a similar movement in the sports sector as well with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) leading the way in empowering women using sport as a medium primarily through the organisation of the annual Shaikha Hind Women’s Sports Tournament that is focused on motivating women employees from government and non-government departments in Dubai to exercise and make physical activity a part of their lifestyle.

Now in its sixth year and under the leadership of Moza Al Marri — a member of the DSC’s board of directors, Chairwoman of the Women’s Sports Committee and head of the Organising Committee — the event is also aimed at creating a feeling of camaraderie among employees while breaking the daily routine of work.

“We’ve more than fulfilled the core objectives we had set before us for the Shaikha Hind Women’s Sports Tournament. Since the first tournament held in 2012 we have registered a steady growth rate in the number of women participants,” Fawzia Mohammad Faraidoon, manager of Women’s Sports Development Section at DSC told Gulf News.

“When we started we had just 166 participants in six different sporting disciplines. But in a matter of just five years last year witnessed nearly 700 employees turning up to compete in 10 sporting disciplines. This just shows how popular this event has become among the women in the government and non-government sectors in such a short time, and we are confident this figure will continue increasing,” she added.

Such has been the appeal to the empowerment that some of the Dubai Government departments such a Dewa, Dubai Municipality, RTA and Dubai Public Prosecution among others have even set up dedicated committees to handle internal sports activities. “These departments even have separate budgets allocated and most of the women have started training regularly throughout the year,” Faraidooni pointed out.

One of the significant features of the entire exercise has been the unifying impact it has had on the women employees in both sectors. “There are some government departments who have started running and cycling groups to keep healthy and fit and this is something that will go a long way in altering mindsets across the board,” she added.

The UAE is an example of a country that takes the education and empowerment of women seriously. Things took a step further with the organisation of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) at the end of 2017.

As per figures, around 70 per cent of university students are girls, and 46.6 per cent of the labour market today is made up of women. In addition, 66 per cent of all government employees are women. Over 30 per cent of managerial positions across various industries are taken up by women and 15 per cent of expert positions in the private sector are held by women.

On the sports scene, the Shaikha Hind competition has shown at least a 20 per cent increase in participation over the past five years. “Women are an essential part of society and they contribute to the transformation of the society they live in. Sports can only help women contribute even more towards sustaining a movement,” Faraidoon said.



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