UAE Sport
'International Forum for Women and Sports,' hosted by Dubai Sports Council, in progress on Wednesday. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan once said: “The woman is half of the society; any country which pursues development should not leave her in poverty or illiteracy”.

Echoing those sentiments, Laura Georges, one of the top stars of international women’s football and General Secretary of the French Football Federation (FFF), has urged the sports fraternity to invest in women’s sport to strengthen the whole community as it recovers from COVID-19.

“Investing in women means investing in the whole family,” Georges said as she discussed the ‘Future of Women’s Sport in Light of the Current Challenges’ alongside Tunisian fencer Ines Boubakri, winner of bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, during the virtual ‘International Forum for Women and Sports’, organised by the Women’s Sports Committee of Dubai Sports Council (DSC) on Wednesday.

“When you invest in women and women’s sport, you benefit the entire household and the community – you benefit her parents and her children, you benefit her spouse and her siblings, and you benefit future generations and communities.

Ines Boubakri, bronze medallist fencer in 2016 Rio Olympics, was also one of the speakers. Image Credit: Reuters

“So, as we forge ahead, leaving these challenging times behind, I believe it is critical that we invest more in women. It will be important that men and women unite and combine their efforts in creating and achieving excellence, not just in the sports sector, but in every sphere of life,” she added.

The forum comprised of a panel that included Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hasher Al Maktoum, Board Member of the UAE Volleyball Association and Member of the Board of Directors of Al Wasl Sports Club in Dubai; Sheikha Naima Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, head of the organising committee for Women’s Games in the Gulf Cooperation Council; Mouza Ebrahim Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry of Community Development; Rowdah Al Mehrizi, Chairperson of Women’s Sports Committee; Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Director General of Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation and Dr Mai Al Jaber, Board member of the UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) and the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy.

Nadia Khadim, captain of Al Wasl’s women’s volleyball team, was also on the list of panelists while Fouzeya Faridoon, Manager of DSC’s Women’s Sports Development section and Manager of the council’s Women’s Sports Committee, delivered the closing address.

Talking about the impact of COVID-19 on her as a player, Georges added: “It was really strange to see all the sports activity come to a halt. Things were really complicated in the first few days as we were worried whether it was safe to train in these circumstances, but after studying the matter carefully, we started opening up gradually, applying safety protocols.”

Boubakri, who was training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the USA, also found the first few days of the lockdown really confusing because of all the conflicting information. “I had never faced such a situation before,” she said.

“I never had to stop training or sit at home before. So it was difficult, but we managed to get through this phase with the help of my coach. I did not give up or allow fear to take hold of me – and that is very important as an athlete. We should never let fear overcome us. That is my advice to every woman,” she added.

Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on international sports, Al Suwaidi observed: “The pandemic has affected every sector of life, in every part of the world. It has affected the sports sector as well and in the USA alone, the sports sector is estimated to have lost about $ 12 billion due to the pandemic in the last few months. At the world level, you can only imagine how big that number will be.”