So today I was on the sidelines when history was being made…. The words “being proud” is often thrown around, and is maybe overused these days, but not today! Today I was proud, today Saudi women were proud, today Saudi as a nation was proud… (well almost). This morning I attended the Olympic Judo matches and saw Wujdan Shaherkani make history, in becoming the first Saudi Olympian! What a feeling that was. I had shivers down my spine while her name was being called out to take her place in the arena – and the crowd cheered so loudly for her, and I would say almost as loud as the cheers for Team GB!
The 16-year old Saudi barely had a minute when the high-ranked Puerto Rican fighter easily beat her, but in my eyes she didn’t lose! she was a champ! She made a whole nation proud of her achievement. She competed in the greatest sporting event of mankind and without a shred of help from the Saudi government. In fact, the government (unlike any other country) not only didn’t support her, but stood in her way. At school they forbid her from participating in sports, and physical education just for being born a women. Outside school by not providing gyms and facilities for women, and as an athlete by not providing any funding for her to compete in the Olympics. Yet despite all of this, she managed to compete in this global event that had hundreds of millions of viewers- What an achievement! She has not only competed for herself, but for every Saudi women out there with a dream. Her accomplishments will loudly tell them that they can do anything they desire, and being a Saudi women will not stand in the way of there dreams! What a role model to be proud of!
Unfortunately, her performance today has highlighted a very horrible treat we have in Saudi – Racism! Because of Wujdan’s historical roots from outside the Arab Isles, she has been targeted with racial slur. The worrying this is, the Saudi authorities don’t take racism seriously, so I expect nothing will be done, and no support will be provided for her to deal with this unacceptable behaviour.
I hope and wish that Wujods participation in the Olympics will highlight the importance of women in sports, and highlight the URGENT need to create facilities and gyms in schools and beyond for females in the Kingdom.
To find out more, read my opinion in the Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443866404577566622867956722.html#articleTabs%3Darticle
and then to the Associated Press at http://hosted2.ap.org/OREUG/0a6106be5ac4420893ee9bde92187155/Article_2012-08-03-OLY-JUD-Saudi-Fighter/id-ce539d5ee60b47a18e58a78bc13008f2