Yemeni Women in sports [Archives:2007/1058/Reportage]
By: Ismail Al-Ghabri
Yemeni women's sport has witnessed significant progress at varying levels, but such progress remains in its infancy due to traditions and customs governing women's sports in Yemen. Yemeni women now are requesting special and private clubs to enable them to do different sporting activities befitting their biological nature and in line with Islamic teachings. Thus, they may join men in developing and building Yemen.
In view of such demands, the Youth and Sports Ministry has established a Women's General Administration whose main goal is to upgrade the level of women's sports in a way that complies with Islamic teachings and Yemeni customs, as well as women's nature.
The prime minister's 1999 decree No. 60, as well as the youth and sports minister's 2003 resolution No. 73, both dictated establishing a Women's General Administration, whose main objective is to supervise and organize women's sporting competitions at every federation and branch level.
The administration's involvement extends to include all sports clubs, girls' schools and universities. The administration now has 12 branches across the republic, including Sana'a, Aden, Abyan, Lahj, Dhamar, Taiz, Hodeidah, Ibb, Mahwit, Marib and Hadramout.
Nora Al-Jarawi, director of the Women's General Administration, points out that the greatest achievement during the recent past has been establishing the Women's Sports General Federation and the Bilqis Cultural and Sports Club in Sana'a, as well as appointing women officials in 13 sporting federations.
Al-Jarawi further indicates that Yemeni women have achieved a lot, including a female deputy head of the Olympic Committee and 20 percent of board of directors' seats. Women also occupy the same percentage of seats on the Olympic Committee's General Assembly.
She went on to say that the Yemeni government supports women's sports, approving a project in January 2005, whereby YR 200 million was designated to create a women's sports infrastructure, as well as signing an agreement to establish a $300,000 women and children's library funded by the Social Fund for Development.
As for the international participation of Yemeni women, Al-Jarawi notes that there have been five international competitions for women in Egypt, Sudan, Japan and Syria, together with national competitions and training courses.
This past March, the Women's General Administration organized the second National Meeting of Women's Sports, wherein more than 200 women from 13 governorates participated, an indication of the raised awareness among women regarding the importance of women's sports.
Women's Sports Federation Secretary-General Huda Al-Haidari explains that the federation aims to increase Yemeni women's opportunities regarding participating in different sporting activities, together with fixing sports seasons in collaboration with sporting federations whose sports befit women and Yemeni societal customs.
Al-Haidari added that the federation supervises and organizes many sports and games competitions, including basketball, football, volleyball, basketball, track and field, table tennis, Tae kwon do, Judo and chess.
She further indicated that they are working on establishing a national strategy for women's sports in collaboration with the Olympic Committee's women's sports division and other parties interested in women's sports.
In collaboration with the Yemeni Chess Federation, the Women's Sports Federation hosted the Arab Clubs Women's Championship in Aden, where the Yemeni Kamaran Club took third place. It also has participated in international championships where Yemeni women players have won advanced places, many receiving gold and bronze medals.
The federation plans to organize more competitions in other sports involving more women's participation in a way that complies with Islamic principles and teachings.
Other factors that help the spread of women's sports in Yemen is extending education and opening more schools in Yemeni cities and villages, increasing the number of clubs and sports centers and raising awareness about the importance of sports in maintaining health and fitness.