With her exemplary humanitarian initiatives, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, has found a place in myriad hearts.

One of the greatest advocates for women's empowerment in the Arab world, Sheikha Jawaher’s innumerable initiatives have also made a difference in the lives of people suffering from cancer, abuse, disabilities and poverty.

What is perhaps not well documented is how she has also championed the cause of Emirati and Arab sportswomen.

It was under her leadership, that the Arab Women Sports Tournament was launched at Sharjah in 2012.

The tournament was established with the aim of inspiring young women to play sports and chase Olympic dreams.

Since its inception, the biannual tournament has produced several future medallists on the world stage.

Now, the tournament returns with its 7th edition (February 2-12) which will see the participation of 550 sportswomen from 14 Arab countries in Sharjah.

Noura Al Shamsi, Director of the Arab Women Sports Tournament, is brimming with excitement ahead of the 2024 edition of the event.

“This tournament in Sharjah has been a wonderful platform for female athletes in the UAE and the region. We invite all Arab countries to our tournament and participate in different sports. It’s backed by the Union of Arab National Olympic Committee, which is based in Riyadh,” Al Shamsi told the Khaleej Times.

“For this edition of the tournament, we will have eight sports events — basketball, volleyball, table tennis, karate, shooting, archery, athletics, and fencing. The tournament will start on February 2 and end on February 12. We have 61 clubs participating from 14 Arab countries.”

Among this year’s 550 participants is Zainab Al Hosani, a talented Emirati fencer who has won gold medals at international events and represented the UAE at the Asian Games last year.

Zainab credits the Arab Women Sports Tournament for her success as a young athlete.

“This is my second time at the Arab Women Sports Tournament. I got the silver medal in my first event, my teammate won the gold. We also won the gold medal in the team event,” she said.

“The UAE is a country that is making a lot of effort to support women. And this tournament gives sportswomen like us a lot of opportunities.”

UAE shooter Yasmine Tahlak says the Arab Women Sports Tournament is a springboard to the Olympics.

“It’s a very fine initiative, it brings all women together in one place. It gives all young women motivation to participate in sports even more,’ she said.

“For Arab women and women in the UAE, it’s really inspiring to get a platform like this and aim for big events like the Asian Games and the Olympics.”

Meanwhile, Al Shamsi says the aim of the organisers has always been to produce Olympic and world champions.

“We want to them become the best in the world. The Arab Women Sports Tournament started as a dream for Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher, she is our biggest supporter,” she said.

“The Arab tournament first started like a Gulf tournament, now it has been expanded to include all Arab countries. As I said, I would of course, like to see our athletes from the United Arab Emirates on the big platforms with the gold medals.

“Our main goal is to reach the Olympics with our girls. We are starting with the baby steps, but we are on the right track.”

In these 12 years, the tournament has become hugely successful in drawing more and more young girls to sports in the UAE.

“Yes, we have noticed the increase in numbers, whether it’s the ladies, young girls or teenagers,’ she said.

“They all now are into sports and even our women's sports organisation (Sharjah Women Sports) focuses on doing different activities and different initiatives, especially targeting girls at schools.”

Unlike the many young Emirati girls who will be making their debut in the tournament this week, Nadwa Al-Sawan is a hugely experienced UAE volleyball player.

The tall spiker is now itching to get back on the court again.

“It’s definitely an honour to participate in this tournament,” she said. “It will be my fourth participation and hopefully not the last!”

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