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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Ten times Emirati women athletes chose sport over cooking 

Here are 10 Emirati women who overcame social challenges to represent their country at a professional level

From perfect-10 gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, to one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams, women have a long history of dominating sport.

Often faced with cultural barriers or inequality when compared to their male counterparts, many women athletes find themselves having to work twice as hard for far less pay.

Women athletes are forced to overcome these challenges from a young age, when girls are not as encouraged to take part in sport as boys may be.

The UAE has made great efforts to reduce this imbalance, by hosting the International Conference of Sports for Women last year and introducing mandatory sport in schools. Rugby is part of the physical education curriculum – for boys and girls – as the UAE looks to develop local talent in the sport.

But on Tuesday, a member of the UAE's Federal National Council said girls should forgo rugby classes at school and instead learn to cook.

"Imagine a girl graduates from school playing rugby but doesn’t know how to cook," said Salem Al Shehhi, who represents Ras Al Khaimah. “This sport is considered one of the most dangerous sports and today girls are playing it in high school, whereas one of the most important skills to be taught in school has disappeared: cooking classes.”

FNC speaker Dr Amal Al Qubaisi said playing rugby has “benefits to the human body”.

“There is a sports philosophy for schools, because the health and fitness aspect is not less important than the intellectual side," she said.

“There should be equal opportunities for boys and girls,” said Dr Al Qubaisi, who became the first Arab woman to chair a parliamentary body in 2015.

In light of the fierce debate this has ignited on social media, here are 10 Emirati women who overcame social challenges to represent their country at a professional level and act as role models for generations of girls to come.

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Read more:

Emirati women make great strides in sports participation

Rugby added to UAE's national school curriculum

Rugby too 'rough' and girls should instead study cooking, says UAE council member

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