With the recent announcement by Minister of Education Ahmed Al Issa that Physical Education classes will be available to girls in schools across Saudi Arabia beginning next month, there has been a wave of excitement across the Kingdom about new and positive changes which help promote a healthier lifestyle, and a fitter way of living.
One of those women is Nelly Attar of Riyadh. A long time psychologist and life coach, she has recently transitioned to being a full time sports trainer to women who are looking to work out and improve their physical being.
Speaking to Arabia Now, Nelly said, “Sports has been the juice of my life. Becoming a trainer was never part of my plan, but it just happened naturally. And because we really haven’t had proper gyms and experts in this field up till now in Saudi Arabia, I saw a chance to get certified, and help others become fit too.” There is certainly a noticeable increase in awareness of sports becoming a key component to a healthy life, as women’s fitness centers are opening up across the Kingdom.
This is good news not just for the women and young girls who want to have a more active lifestyle in the area of sports, but it was also a key pillar of the road map for Saudi Vision 2030, which stated that improving access to sport for women and girls should be encouraged, as “Opportunities for the regular practice of sports have often been limited. This will change.”
One woman who’s been actively striving for change is Shura Council member Lina Almaeena, who’s spent 10 years trying to implement sports for girls in both public and private schools. She said recently, “I’m very happy with the issue of the decree and this is a historic day for all Saudi girls in the Kingdom.”
That is a sentiment also echoed by Nelly Attar who told Arabia Now, “When I heard that physical education was going to be allowed for girls, I felt that finally this is about time. It’s essential and it should be a given. I’m really happy its part of the curriculum and I’m so excited to see how sports will unfold in Saudi Arabia. I’m excited to see children moving more and not leading such a sedentary lifestyle. I hope this really encourages movement for the new generation.”
It’s certainly good news for the millions of women and young girls across the Kingdom who have always looked up to female athletes such as Sarah Attar who was one of two women from Saudi Arabia to compete in the 2012 Olympics for the very first time. But there are numerous another athletic role models too, including Joud Fahmy for judo, Lubna Al Omair for fencing, and Raha Moharrak, who climbed Mount Everest.
The recent announcement about physical education isn’t just a chance for women to become fit, but it’s also a chance for women to begin a new kind of profession. Nelly Attar has certainly seen the opportunity to diversify into a career in the field of fitness. She is the first certified Nike master trainer in Saudi Arabia, as well as being a spinning instructor, cross fit trainer and dance class instructor. But that’s not all. She did an online course in New York in holistic health management, which also addresses issues in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and eating well. During her interview with Arabia Now, her energy was evident as she said, “I have had so many women come and ask me can I help to train them to be a trainer. I have also had so many emails for support and guidance in this filed. I see a market for this, and a big potential for women taking up jobs in sports.”
Training women to become physical education instructors will be done by the General Authority for Sports, the Education and Health ministries, and the Saudi National Olympic Committee.
Numerous studies have shown young girls who start physical education and sports early in their life, are subject to fewer chronic illnesses, stronger bones and a higher body esteem. Aside from the health accepts, the mental aspects of being fit and playing sports also had enormous benefits too. As women, they become better at organizing, setting priorities, budgeting their time and more involved with their communities as adults.
Nelly Attar couldn’t be a bigger cheerleader for the new health awareness and physical education initative. At the end of her interview with Arabia Now she said simply, “Women are more interested in sports than ever. I am seeing a big increase in running and my classes recently have been packed. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for sure.” It sounds like millions of women in Saudi Arabia have been waiting for this moment for equal access to the playing field too. Now thanks to Saudi Vision 2030, they have it.