Women athletes strive to make it
There are multiple recent female sports achievements both locally and internationally. However, these achievements remain limited due to social attitudes—particularly in rural areas—toward women’s participation in athletics.
In this year’s Olympics, held in London, Yemen’s Fatima Al-Dahman, 19, participated in the 100 meter sprint race.
“We (female athletes) are not allowed to train in or outside the stadium,” she said, speaking of the difficulties she faces in Yemen. “We cannot be free from derogatory comments and insults poured on us by some people.”
“If I want to exercise outside, I have to wait for the dark so that nobody sees me. Occasionally, I cannot exercise, though I need these exercises.”
In Islam, women are not permitted to travel unless a close relative accompanies them.
“Women are banned from traveling alone,” Dahman said. “Thus, foreign participation is lost.”
Sara Al-Absi, a volleyball player, said she participated in many international tournaments, but her participation remains low compared with participants from other countries.
“The social attitude toward female sports is still critical because of religious norms and traditions that determine the responsibility and the work of women,” Al-Absi said.
Al-Absi criticized the stance of the Ministry of Sports and Youth, saying the support of women in this field is still insufficient; the newspapers' role is inadequate as well.
Sultan Al-Ariqi, a government employee, said it is difficult to accept the idea of women participating in sports based on his convictions to upholding the current norms and the traditions of the community.
Tough sports are not suitable for women, he said, because a woman is naturally delicate and tender.
“Her major concerns are her house and family.”
Mohammed Al-Hwsali, a weightlifting champion, said there must be a consideration with regard to the type of sports women can participate in.
“There are some sports females can practice that need no arduous physical efforts and are appropriate for women builds and femininity,” Al-Hwsali said. “These sports should not lead women to be violent, which contradicts her nature.”
Al-Hwsali said there are sports exercises women can practice such as ballet, chess and skiing, that are appropriate, but he added that there are some other sports that are inappropriate for women to involve themselves with.
“They had better avoid other sports like wrestling and weightlifting.”
Amani Khalid, an employee at the Ministry of Sports and Youth, said society gradually starts to look up to and accept women’s participation in sports.
“The Yemeni woman has proven successful in many leadership positions such as a minister, a politician, an economist, a doctor, an engineer or an athlete,” Khalid said. “The participation of Yemeni women in foreign sport contests is a clear indicator of progress the Yemeni woman is making.”
Khalid said women can normally practice some sport games.
“Why are they not supported as long as long these games don’t contradict social customs and traditions?”
Yahiya Al-Damari, a man in the fifties, said women today have no other concerns other than competing with men in everything.
“It is enough for a woman to learn simple things and then get married and stay home to care about her children,” he said. “If she wants to practice some sport exercises, she can do so in her house.”
Nashwan Al-Haimi, a university student, said he approves of women’s sports participation under the condition that these exercises don’t contravene the instructions of Islam or the traditions and the customs of society.
“Sport exercises are important for women’s health,” Al-Haimi said.
Nora Al-Jarwi, the general manager of the Women Administration at the Ministry of Sport and Youth, commended the success of Yemeni women in the course of the past period, indicating that the Women General Administration has fostered more than 50 sport and cultural activities since it was established in 2003. Seven of them were foreign and international participation.
Al-Jarwi said the formation of the Women Athletes Union contributed to reviving women’s sports nationwide.
“Women have become strongly present and obvious in many sports carnivals organized by the union.”