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Breaking Barriers and Shaping Futures: WiMENA Conference Unites Women in Sport

Breaking Barriers and Shaping Futures: WiMENA Conference Unites Women in Sport

June 2024 – Chelsea Football Club

In the hallowed halls of Chelsea Football Club, an extraordinary convergence unfolded. The WiMENA (Women in Middle East & North Africa) Women in Sport Conference, chaired by the indomitable Rebeca Riofrio, Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Society, was nothing short of transformative. This seminal event gathered pioneering women, influential leaders, and passionate advocates, all united by a shared vision: to catapult women's participation in sports to new heights.

Championing Gender Equality Through Sport

The conference kicked off with a keynote address that resonated deeply with attendees. The Rt Hon Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean emphasized the power of sport as a beacon for gender equality. Supported by video messages from HRH Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud and HRH Prince Khalid bin Bandar Al Saud, the session underscored how sports can dismantle entrenched stereotypes and foster societal change.

Unlocking Potential and Building Futures

A highlight of the day was the first panel session, "Unlocking Sporting Potential," moderated by Newcastle University's Katy Storie. Esteemed panelists, including Lisa O’Keefe from IWG and former Olympic coach Nino Severino, delved into strategies for harnessing sports facilities in the MENA region to develop female talent. The discussions were insightful, focusing on education-centered programming and emotional support, pivotal in nurturing the next generation of sportswomen.

Role Models Paving the Way

In a session brimming with inspiration, "Sporting Role Models: Setting the Bar for Future Generations," moderated by Janie Frampton OBE, the stories shared were nothing short of electrifying. Icons like FIA Women in Motorsport Chair Burca Cetinkaya and British Racing Driver Abbie Eaton shared their journeys, highlighting the importance of mentorship and the ripple effect of their successes on aspiring young women.

Harnessing Technology and Combatting Challenges

The intersection of technology and sports was explored in depth during the panel "Technology in Sport." Experts like George Vaughan and Heba Bevan OBE discussed safeguarding the digital realm of sports, addressing issues like online bullying. The session shed light on how technology can be both a tool and a challenge in modern sports.

Exploring Commercial Horizons

Afternoon sessions pivoted to the commercial landscape of sports. "Sports Tourism: The Commercial Opportunities" provided a deep dive into investment prospects in the MENA region. Moderated by Jubran Abdul Rahman, the discussion featured insights from industry leaders like Dr. Raj Joshi and Brigitte Stangl, exploring avenues from stadium construction to hospitality training.

Saudi Arabia’s Bold Vision for 2030

Capping the day was a session dedicated to Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030. With an eye on hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2034, the country is making monumental strides in sports investment. The panel, moderated by Donal McElwee, highlighted Saudi Arabia’s $7 billion commitment to sports, promising a vibrant future for women athletes.

Networking and Future Collaborations

Throughout the day, networking opportunities abounded, providing a platform for attendees to forge meaningful connections. The conference facilitated exchanges of knowledge, strategies, and visions, all aimed at bolstering women's roles in the sports sector.

Special Acknowledgements and Observations

A special thanks was extended to Abdeslam El-idrissi and our friends from The Arab Chamber of Commerce for their gracious invitation. Their support was instrumental in making this event a resounding success. An interesting observation shared during the event highlighted that households where mothers have professional careers and actively participate in sports see about 95% of their children also pursuing professional careers and engaging in sports. In contrast, the influence is significantly less in households where only the father is involved in sports. This finding underscores the critical role of accessibility and flexibility for female workers, as it significantly impacts the future of the younger generation.

Closing Remarks

The event concluded with poignant remarks from Bandar Reda, Secretary General and CEO of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, encapsulating the day's ethos of empowerment and collaboration. The WiMENA Women in Sport Conference not only celebrated the achievements of women in sports but also set the stage for future triumphs. It was a day of inspiration, strategic dialogue, and unwavering commitment to gender equality in sports. As attendees left Chelsea Football Club, they carried with them the spirit of the conference, ready to break barriers and shape the future of women's sports.

Join us on this inspiring journey towards gender equality in sport. Let us break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create a future where women thrive in the sporting industry.


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