This October, Saudi Arabia will host its first-ever women’s squash tournament—a major move for the nation’s female population and the Kingdom’s rapidly expanding sports sector.
According to an announcement by the Professional Squash Association (PSA), the Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh will serve the stage for the PSA Women’s Masters. The tournament will run from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2.
“We look forward to growing the female participation of the sport of squash. It is a dynamic game that involves fast thinking and fast reaction times, skills that are well reflected in the women of Saudi Arabia,” said Princess Reema bint Bandar, vice president of Women’s Affairs at the General Sports Authority.
The announcement signals a broader shift among Saudi society, as more government initiatives have come to the table in the hopes of encouraging women to get moving—in more ways, than one.
“Following recent initiatives from the General Authority of Sports in Saudi Arabia to increase sporting participation and awareness across the country, the $165,000 tournament will play a crucial role in inspiring a new generation of Saudis to become active within sport,” said a PSA statement.
Meet her on the squash court.
Over the past two years alone, Saudi Arabia has enacted a range of efforts to open doors for women eager to participate in the Kingdom’s sports and athletic scene. The General Authority of Sports, established in 2016 and headed by Princess Reema, has taken an active lead in pushing these changes forward, widely advocating that including women in sports results in not only a healthier society, but a more productive economy.
“A healthy and balanced lifestyle is an essential mainstay of a high quality of life,” said Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said in 2016. “We intend to encourage widespread and regular participation in sports and athletic activities, working in partnership with the private sector to establish additional dedicated facilities and programs.”
In Feb. 2016, Saudi authorities began granting licenses for women’s gyms to move in across the Kingdom. In Nov. 2016, the government authorized the privatization of state-owned soccer clubs in the Saudi Professional League. Earlier in 2016, Saudi Arabia sent four Saudi female athletes to the Rio Olympics in 2016. Four years prior, Sarah Attar and Wodan Shahrkhani were the first Saudi women in the history of the games.
These sweeping changes fall under Vision 2030’s ongoing transformative motions. Under the economic diversification and societal modernization program, Saudi Arabia has committed to increasing the share of individuals exercising at least once a week from 13 percent to 40 percent. Even more, Vision 2030 has set goals of upping women’s participation in the workforce from 22 to 30 percent. Saudi Arabia’s sports sector has the potential to create up to 250,000 jobs for women.
Read more at Agence France-Presse.