Proposal for women sports colleges to Shoura falls 3 votes short

A girl shoots baskets during team practice at a private sports club in Jeddah in this file photo. (AP)
Updated 26 April 2017

Proposal for women sports colleges to Shoura falls 3 votes short

JEDDAH: Only three votes stood in the way of passing a proposal Tuesday at the Shoura Council to establish sports education colleges for women. The proposal won the support of 73 members, but was opposed by 57. The minimum vote count to pass the proposal was 76.
The rejection was a disappointment for those who were in favor of taking practical steps to promote sports among women in Saudi Arabia. But Shoura member Lina Almaeena, said: “It’s the majority of votes (that were in favor).”
Almaeena was not deterred.
“The fact that we’re discussing women sports colleges is a great evolution,” Almaeena, who is also a sports advocate and cofounder and CEO of Jeddah United Sports Co., told Arab News.
The proposal called for a joint venture between the Education Ministry and the General Authority of Sports. The goal is to educate Saudi women on fitness and sports-related sciences and to be able to hold positions at health and fitness clubs that are to be established in the following months.
Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, vice president of women’s affairs at the General Authority of Sports, said in March at a meeting with owners of woman health clubs at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce that more licenses would be granted for women’s gyms. The goal is to have a gym in every district and neighborhood in coordination with the labor, rural affairs and commerce ministries, local media reported.
Almaeena told Arab News the Kingdom needs female Saudi sports professionals to be able to participate in the burgeoning women’s sports industry.
The idea is to recruit more Saudi women in specialties that are usually filled by non-Saudi professionals, like women’s sports.
“It’s good to have Saudis that are aware of the religious and social identity (of the country) and are easier to communicate with,” she said. “I’m not against international expertise, but at the same time we need to have national workforce.”
Health and rehabilitation centers are struggling to find qualified Saudi sports professionals to train people and those with special needs. “There is a need (for Saudi woman sports specialists),” she added.
Gen. Ali Al-Tamini, a Shoura member supporting the proposal, said the government is supporting the idea of sports for women. Several fitness centers have already transformed part of their buildings into a women’s section that abides by the Shariah, he said.
The proposed introduction of sports sciences would include several areas — sports therapy, sports psychology, sports management, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and sports journalism.
Opponents of the proposal justified their votes by saying male sports colleges have not proven to be feasible and have not achieved their goals after years of their establishment. “So how will woman sports colleges achieve their goals?” Shoura member Adnan Al-Bar was quoted in local media as saying. “We have to agree that the proposal as an idea is correct.”
With Vision 2030 and the appointment of Princess Reema in August 2016, Almaeena said: “It’s really a matter of time” before women sports are better promoted in the Kingdom.
“I believe that the private Saudi universities will definitely take the lead. I’m sure that could be the start,” she added.
The sports sector could create 250,000 jobs for women, said Princess Reema during her speech at the MiSK Global Forum in Riyadh last November. Boosting women’s participation in the Saudi workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent by 2030 is a main goal in Saudi Vision 2030.
In an unprecedented move, six Saudi female athletes competed in the two previous Summer Olympic Games: Two in London 2012 and four in Rio 2016.

You’ve got mail: Writer of mystery letters in Jeddah revealed

Updated 02 April 2020

You’ve got mail: Writer of mystery letters in Jeddah revealed

  • She leaves notes all over Jeddah to be picked up by strangers

JEDDAH: Ever wondered what it is like to find an uplifting letter from a stranger? If you are in Jeddah, then you are in luck as you might pass by and pick up a letter in a public area titled: “If you find me, I’m yours.”

These random acts of kindness were devised by an initiative called Garba’at Rasayl, Hejazi slang for “a mess of letters.” The group was created by 23-year-old Saudi freelance graphic designer Hadeel Felemban.

The simple white envelopes are covered in stickers and magazine cutouts. Felemban said letter-writing helps her express her thoughts and feelings while sharing it with the world, one letter at a time.

“Mess happens every time I write paper letters, a mess of words and feelings, a mess of scraps and colors used to decorate the envelope,” she told Arab News.

The act of writing letters is special to her as it brings a sense of connection to her father — who worked at the Saudi Post Office more than 20 years ago — and revives the exchange of letters in a world filled with technology. The initiative holds monthly meetings in different cities, where attendees gather to write letters to strangers.

“My father passed away when I was two, and the only way I knew him was through the stories my mother and his brothers share about him. I would write to him on my phone’s notepad sometimes, but I wanted something other than our names to connect us.”

The discovery of her late father’s stamp collection from different periods in her home two years ago prompted her to start the initiative.

“It was like finding a treasure. And ever since then, I’ve been looking for ways to reuse them and revive paper mail. I realized that in a period different than his, I became a mail carrier just like him.”

Felemban shared her interest in sending traditional mail on Instagram. She was able to send letters to some who responded, but she did not receive any in return.

“The waiting was suffocating, I felt devastated and I blame that we are not used to the mailing system and its hardship,” she said.

One night, she decided to write a letter and leave the envelopes in public places.

“Writing a letter to a stranger is probably the best solution to killing the unknown wait from the other party.”

She decorated the envelope of the message, and left it in a cafe in Jeddah without any contact information. “Then I found myself monitoring the cafe’s account on social media, and was disappointed yet again. I didn’t know what had happened to the letter, was it thrown away, picked up or neglected?”

In a family gathering in early October, Felemban placed her stationery supplies and envelopes on the dining table, ready to write a new letter. Her cousins and mother were curious and joined her.

“I was so happy to include them. I complained to them about the waiting and not knowing if the letter was abandoned.”

Her family members suggested creating a special tag for the letters so that strangers who received the letters could reach out to her.

“I created the Arabic hashtag for ‘mess of letters’ and created a post for my friends in Riyadh — where I was at the time — and asked them if they wanted to gather to write letters together. I received a lot of positive responses and then prepared for the event in one of the cafes in the city.”

She hosted the first gathering on Oct. 25 and was happy to see how the simple gesture of uplifting messages had an impact on her community.

“During exam week back when I was studying, it was such a mentally exhausting time, and I used to write encouraging words and quotes for myself and the visitors of the cafe I usually go to. I noticed they had a great impact on emotional well-being. I held on to that idea by writing letters to strangers in public places.”

This simple act of kindness from one stranger to another can go a long way toward making a difference in someone’s life.