How Dubai Women’s Run is breaking gender stereotypes

The ninth edition of the annual event will be held at the iconic Bluewaters Island on Sunday, where nine women from all walks of life will shine light on empowerment and battling the breast cancer scourge



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Thu 10 Nov 2022, 9:14 PM

Dubai Women’s Run (DWR), the largest sporting event for women in the Arab world, is back for its ninth edition and is set to take place on Sunday (November 13) at the iconic Bluewaters Island in the city under the patronage of Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the son of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The event is organised by Plan B group in partnership with Dubai Sports Council, UAE Athletics Federation and Al Jalila Foundation. The Women of Substance initiative welcomes nine prolific women who have made significant contributions to society. This year, these nine women of substance come together to join hands in support of raising awareness for breast cancer, coagulating their network, passion and resources to voice concerns and share inspiration across the region for women afflicted with the health condition, through engaging panel discussions, keynote speeches and sharing heart- wrenching personal experiences.

The line-up consists of women across ages, ethnicities and professional backgrounds, much like the concept of DWR that celebrates the spirit of womanhood all through.

Dr Maya Al Hawary is an inspirational Emirati educator and the first Ph.D scholar to research emotional intelligence and its effect on leadership in the UAE. She weighs in on the concept of DWR. “I believe physical and mental health goes hand in hand. Events like DWR give an opportunity to women to work on these aspects of their being. I am an advocate for mental health well-being, and I believe, by making fitness your lifestyle you incorporate this essential routine and keep focus on building a healthier self,” she says.

According to her, the ninth edition is different from the previous ones. “This is the first year I am on board as a Woman of Substance with DWR. But I understand that every year DWR has been growing in strength and not just in terms of its numbers, but more importantly as a platform for people to voice what’s close to their heart. Like I mentioned earlier, creating awareness on mental health and depression are some of the issues I like to champion and the DWR comes across as an event that is not just a one-day event, but a way of life,” she says.

Besides, emotional intelligence is also the ethos of the UAE leadership. “Usually, the vision of the UAE is based on innovation and creativity… I stress on mental health because your awareness and enlightenment drive positive thoughts, which are tell-tale signs of visionary leadership,” she adds.

Afra, also known as Yuliana Grasman, is a contemporary poet. She is the first woman to drive 4x4 on two wheels, and is now a virtual reality (VR) racer and has won many accolades in her career. She has acted in popular feature films like the Indian movie Zero with Shah Rukh Khan and an Emirati film Unbeatable Fighter, among others. She explained what she enjoyed the most as a VR racer.

“I can do anything you can’t do in real life. VR racing is so close to real racing. It’s limitless high speed, extreme angles and helps to train the brain to control adrenaline and heart rate,” she says.

“Women’s fitness quotient in the UAE has gone up in the past few years. I’m glad to see that many women are training hard to be fit,” she says.

Salma Al Qubaisi is an Emirati businesswoman, who invests in technology and leads digital, artificial intelligence and blockchain world transformation. “I’m an explorer, adventurer, and adrenaline seeker,” she says. “I love challenges and always like to climb up to the top.”

Adeshola Helen Onadipe is a serial entrepreneur. “Running will allow women to train more frequently and consistently to keep fit for a healthy lifestyle,” she says.

As a successful publisher and editor-in-chief of women-centric business magazines, she says, “The challenges of publishing weren’t that difficult. This is largely because of technology in this jet age. Social media platforms and online courier services are major tools to reach out to the audience to have access to our publications.”

Dubai has evolved as one of the event capitals in the world. “Dubai is a business hub. As an African businesswoman from Nigeria, I find Dubai innovative because it encourages diversity and inclusion, which has helped me to thrive as a publisher,” she adds.

Amira Jabir-Oshiga is a fitness coach and breast cancer survivor. Her earlier association with DWR in 2018 helped build her spirit and fight cancer. She works with other women fighting the dreaded disease. Explaining the importance of physical and mental well-being from her own personal experience, she says, “One can never be prepared for that moment when diagnosed with breast cancer. The fear of the unknown could take control of you and turn your world upside down. However, I found solace in exercise.”

In fighting breast cancer, a strong support system — whether from husband, family, or friends — is invaluable.  “When diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t realise that in Dubai, there already existed a strong network of cancer survivors helping each other through their journey to overcome their illness.  Through Al Jalila Foundation’s newly established Majlis al Amal, I have found an amazing network of friends as well as a perfect place for me to give back to society, help people understand why physical activity and mental wellbeing go hand in hand and are the backbone of speedy recovery,” she says.

“I was fortunate to have been diagnosed and treated in the UAE.  It was the October Breast Cancer Awareness month in 2018 that pushed me to go and be screened.  It’s so true, early detection saves lives. The support system in the UAE is incredible. Majlis al Amal hosts many workshops and events to help women through this difficult time and provide support that goes beyond,” she adds.

Mira Singh has a melodious voice, which created waves across the country. The 12-year-old was the star performer at the opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai last year.

“I feel proud to be a part of such a noble platform, which provides so much emotional support to the people and motivates them to stay safe and fit. I am grateful to the DWR team for making me a part of the initiative,” she says.

Fawzia Faridoon heads the women sports wing at Dubai Sports Council. She has focused her efforts on successfully bringing about an awareness and enthusiasm amongst Emirati women towards importance of fitness, physical well-being and self.

“We’re thrilled to be lending our support to DWR. Female runners from our national team are among the participants in the 10-kilometre category, competing with international runners, allowing us to develop and continue to compete in different competitive races,” she says.

Hana AlNabulsi, a 26-year-old triathlete is the youngest Emirati to complete the “Iron Man” 70.3 race in Mexico with a duration of seven hours and nine minutes. “‘It all begins and ends in your mind, what you give power to has power over you.’ This is a quote I read daily and rehearse during my races,” she says.

Suhaila Saqer Al Goobash is the executive director at Dubai Economy and Tourism Department. “It gives me immense pleasure to be a part of women-centric events and DWR resonates with me. I believe in walking the talk literally and my daily walks and run are part of my schedule,” she says.

Vonita Singh is the founder and creator of Movement Mantra, a platform to tap into the therapeutic power of mindful movements; she is also an acclaimed dancer. “Movement for well-being has always been my mantra and to be able to promote this at one of the largest sporting events is exciting. Thrilled to be a part of the run even if it is virtually. It’s a brilliant initiative and serves as a platform to empower women from all walks of life, a cause that supports and motivates us to make our health a priority.”

Dr. Harmeek Singh, chairman and founder of Plan B Group, says, “Undoubtedly, DWR stands tall as a resilient message regionally and globally. Being a part of the ninth edition is an achievement for Plan B and speaks volumes for the UAE, which has been the frontrunner for equality in the region. We are welcoming women not just from Dubai but the other five GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations this year.”

joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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