Women Leaders in Sport and Health Forum
19 September 2018, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and Chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC), Mother of the Nation,the inaugural edition of the Women Leaders in Sport and Health Forum took place this week in a unique setting at Abu Dhabi Ladies Club, providing an empowering platform for female leaders from sport, wellbeing, education and health sectors to discuss the latest challenges, trends and solutions in the UAE and make a positive impact towards moving forward.
Held in partnership with the Fatima bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy (FBMA) and organized by INTERACT, the event’s theme and objective revolved around championing female talent and women-led businesses in the UAE and a plan to encourage young girls and women to be more active. The forum is an exclusive closed door event with 90 women from a range of related professional sectors in attendance, including young athletes from the UAE providing their insights.
Featured speakers included Dr. Omniyat Al Hajeri, Director of The Public Health Division at the Department of Health and FBMA Board Member, who presented key research and findings into motivations, family views and challenges in the UAE. Dr. Al Hajeri also provided data on UAE women’s engagement with sport and physical activity, as well as a summary of the government’s strategy.
During her presentation, Dr. Al Hajeri said, “we are witnessing a journey of transformation, where Emirati women are being empowered on all possible fronts, making sure that they are not just present in sports platforms, but that sports would transform their lifestyle. That’s where the Academy steps in, it is focusing on key pillars to achieve this target. We don’t only work on developing professional athletes and building their skills, but we also have various community-based programs where we work with girls and train them at young age, making sure we escort them through their journey to transform into the athletes they aspire to be, or simply into healthy productive individuals in our local community.”
“Nowadays, I see parents take their daughters to their sports training sessions, and to me this is a huge breakthrough. Getting this level of support where the fathers and mothers are proud of being there to support their daughter’s sports acceleration, whether in ice skating, horse jumping or whatever sport they choose, is simply outstanding, and says a lot about the community we live in today,” Al Hajeri added.
Alison Oliver Chief Executive Officer of the UK’s Youth Sports Trust, delivered an international keynote speech, providing perspectives and insights from her independent charity devoted to improving lives through sport. Among the areas discussed by Oliver were the societal benefits brought about through closing the gaps in young women’s participation in sports.
In her keynote speech, Oliver addressed the strong impact of an active lifestyle on the development of physical health, having a positive mentality, building a constructive character, fostering employability skills as well as driving integration and cohesion with the surrounding community.
The audience also heard a panel debate between Dr. Al Hajeri and Alison Oliver, in addition to Bayna Al Awani, Chief Innovation and Financial Officer at Daman – National Health Insurance Company and Tala Al Ramahi, Chief Strategy Officer at the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
The session kicked off with a conversation about their own career paths and lessons learnt in recognizing talented youth in the UAE, before discussing ways to engage youth and encourage healthier, more active lifestyles.
In addition, attendees took part in an open group discussion, during which they identified the most important factors that affect girls and young women’s engagement with sports, as well as listing possible solutions.