An Abu Dhabi athlete has set the wheels in motion for female empowerment and gender inclusivity in sport with a plea for women everywhere to become more active.
Following a mammoth ride from Sweden to Germany in July this year that saw her traverse 720km in seven days, Egyptian cyclist and UAE resident Shaimaa Al Zayat wants to use her experience to encourage other women to follow in her tracks.
“In Arab countries, it’s part of the culture that women don’t tend to focus on sport, and I find that sad,” Shaimaa told us. “There are some great female-only sports events in the city, and it’s so important that women know what is available for them here.
“The community plays an important role in inspiring more women to get into sport,” she added. “If we had even more female-dedicated events here, then I think that step-by-step, women would be encouraged to join as they see others participating.”
On top of inspiring today’s women to be more active, Shaimaa also wants to instil a message in the nation’s women of tomorrow that like any other sector, sport deserves an equal footing when it comes to gender balance.
“We need to change the mindset and train our future generations that sports should be inclusive for both genders,” she emphasised. “Sport is not a male-dominated environment, and perhaps education should start in schools. Young girls need to have role models in sport, and they need to believe that it is for all.
“If my story can inspire other women to get into sport, then that is all I can ask for.”