Qatari Women in Sports – An Interview with Yasmian AL-Sharshani

 Around the world, the inequality surrounding female athletes is finally being discussed. Equal pay, equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal recognition are what activists have long fought for. For so long it seemed almost unattainable because of the lack of cooperation from leading companies and powerful people in the sports industry.  

 Unfortunately, this topic is considered very controversial, the sports industry has long been dominated by men. If you are a female trying to make it in the sports industry you are shut down immediately by sexist societal remarks such as sports aren’t very ladylike” or women’s bodies can’t handle that much physical activity. And worst of all, we hear this sentence way too often you play like a girl. It is used as an insult to males when they fail at a certain physical challenge, insinuating that girls cannot play sports and you should do better than that cause you are a man… 

Even though Women make up 40% of sportspeople it appears that as of 2020 they continue to only receive only 4% of the total sports media coverage which is very necessary to spread the word about women in sports and to give them the recognition they deserve. And it does not stop there, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, male athletes get $179 million more in athletic scholarships each year than females do. Additionally, collegiate institutions spend just 24% of their athletic operating budgets on female sports, as well as just 16% of recruiting budgets and 33% of scholarship budgets on female athletes 

Members of the girls Qatari fencing national team, their coach, and a member of the board of the Qatari fencing federation at the girls fencing camp.

However, there is no doubt that Qatar is tackling this issue head-on. As part of Qatar’s 2030 vision and solving all 17 SDGs, Qatar aims for a country that supports good health and well-being (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), and reduced inequalities (SDG 10), which are all issues that women face here in Qatar and the rest of the Arab world. We are closer to achieving these SDGs than we were in 2008 when Qatar first announced its 2030 vision, but what is preventing us from reaching this goal quicker? The sexist societal and familial expectations of young girls and women in the Arab world.  

 It is a well-known fact that women and young girls in sports have it harder in the Arab world. They face racism, sexism, and discrimination on a daily for choosing to do what they love and what they are passionate about. The Arab world is not yet fully accepting of women in sports, and this is very problematic because until then we will not have equal opportunities, equal pay, and equal rights, which is something that women deserve and need to flourish in sports.  

Yasmian Al Sharshani, a young golfer for the Qatari National team, is deeply passionate about this topic and is not only breaking down the barriers of sexism and taboo but also encouraging young girls in Qatar to take on sports for the right reasons 

 We had the pleasure of interviewing Yasmian to talk

Yasmian Al Sharshani, Qatar National golf team

about the unequal opportunities for women in sports and how beneficial it is for girls to engage in physical activity. 

 Q: What kind of other opportunities do you wish to see for young girls in sport that are only available for boys? 

 Yasmian: We are currently in the golden age especially when it comes to women and their rights. No doubt I wish that there are more opportunities when it comes to academies that innovatively teach girls sports to motivate them. Everywhere in the world, the male has a head start but we hope inshallah this will be the same for women too. 

 Our Qatari community and even the Arab world, in general, aren’t very fond of girls in the sports sector, especially at a young age. For example, girls between the age of 11 and 19 are expected to only stay at home until they get married maybe that’s the reason behind this issue.  

My advice to these people is to look at it as a learning experience – if your daughter goes to a sports academy, it’s the same as if she goes to school.  

Q: Many young girls here aren’t really motivated to try sports and be physically active because they believe that there aren’t many sports they can do, what would you recommend? 

Yasmian: I think that for the most part the idea of sports here in Qatar is perceived only as a way to lose weight. They don’t look at sports as a way to destress, enjoy, or be healthy.  

Some sports in Qatar are very selective. Women can find so many centers to play paddle for example, but if you want to play volleyball or basketball you can’t find a place for women to practice that sport, it’s either very far or there are not many options. 

Women only do sports to lose weight or feel better about how they look and not to be healthy. It’s important to spread awareness on this issue and understand that being healthy is more than looking good. 

 Q: What is your advice to young girls who wish to do sports? 

Yasmian: To explore. The first time I tried golf was when I was 11 and was invited for dinner with my father’s friend at a golf club in Cairo, I tried it and instantly fell in love with the feeling. It was by pure coincidence, that’s why you need to try different sports and try things you’ve never thought of trying before. 

 And of course, I believe it’s very important to have support from the family especially the mother because if there is no support it will be very hard to achieve anything. 

In 2015, the Women’s World Cup soccer final was the most-watched soccer match ever in US history with 25.4 million viewers! However, the players were far less compensated than their male counterparts. The goalkeeper on that team, Hope Solo, famously said: “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the men get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships. 

Looks like it is time to play like a girl 

Written by:  ZIANI Dana

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