It was only a few months ago that headlines were made across the Kingdom that physical education for girls would be part of the curriculum in schools across the country. Then a few weeks ago it was announced women would be allowed to attend sporting events in Saudi Arabia. That’s all good news for thousands of Saudi women who have been athletes for years, wanting to compete, or just wanting the chance to play sports.
One of those women is Halah AlHamrani of Jeddah. Her attraction to sports started at a very young age when she was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) later on in her life. Speaking to Arabia Now Halah said, “When I was younger I was always considered the naughty and disruptive student in school because I could not sit down and pay attention. In those days, they didn’t know what ADD was. I found that the only subject I could excel in was sports because of the constant movement required. It satisfied my constant need to be active. “
Her need to be active has certainly paid off in the most post way. For the past 15 years she has been teaching a sport which most women wouldn’t pick – boxing. And she’s excelled at it. During her interview with Arabia Now, Halah said, “I was exposed to martial arts at 12 years old in the form of Karate. I loved the focus and discipline it demanded as well as the sense of empowerment it gave him and still gives me to this day.” Halah spends two hours training every day, and also enjoys kick boxing.
Research shows a direct correlation between girls’ participation in sports and higher education and employment. The UN and other organizations have pointed to why women and girls’ participation in sports is an important social and economic empowerment tool, as well. Through sports, women and girls develop a sense of identity and access new opportunities to become more engaged with peers, in school and in community life. Involvement in sports improves women’s and girls’ leadership skills and ability to participate in decision-making.
Halah’s gym – Flagboxing – which stands for Fight Like a Girl Boxing. teaches about 30 girls in Jeddah a day, aged 18 years and older. In establishing this gym she told Arabia Now, “I’ve been teaching this sport for 15 years now. I had always wanted to start a legitimate business. I used to teach out of my parent’s house, but it took many years for that to happen. I honestly believe God was guiding me to wait for the right moment to open my new gym. I was fortunate to open the new location for in 2016 because that’s when all the changes started happening in sports for women. After all, the key to the most successful businesses is timing.”
The timing has never been better for young girls in Saudi Arabia who want sports and a healthy lifestyle to be part of their daily life. While Halah doesn’t have a specific athlete she admires, she told Arabia Now, “ I look up to anyone that spends time working on their craft and who always pushes themselves to do and be better. My students are a constant source of inspiration to me. Their sheer dedication to sports is what I admire most. Especially with women who were not exposed to sports at a young age.”
It seems there’s going to be even more dedication than ever by women across the Kingdom just looking to enter the playing field of sports.