On Saturday, 17 April, Ashoka Arab World (AAW) celebrated its Sports Day and Concert for Social Change. Excited children, youth, Ashoka staff, athletic coaches and teams gathered at the Gezirah Youth Club in a spirit of good sportsmanship and fun.
(See the day’s photos in our previous blog post)
The day was a featured event of our Sports for Social Change campaign. We raced, we fenced, we shot hoops, and we relaxed in the cool grass to the tunes of our favorite bands. The sports on offer included: basketball, fencing, field hockey, rugby, and running.
But what relevance, you may ask, do a field hockey stick or a bouncing ball have to social change?
AAW’s goal is to build a vibrant civil sector in the Arab World. Ashoka and our Fellows are dedicated to creative answers to the challenges of social and economic development, ranging from urban housing to healthcare, rural development to women’s education.
Empowering youth is a crucial component of achieving this goal – especially in the Arab World, where 60% of the population is under the age of 30!
Sports empowers our youth. Anyone who has experienced the exhilaration of a long marathon, the comradeship of a team, or the ebullient self-satisfaction of training the mind to push the body, knows that sports and sportsmanship build the character and fortify the spirit unlike any other activity.
The Kuwaiti sisters Balsam and Lulwa Al Ayoub understand the importance of the sporting spirit. On Ashoka Sports Day, the Al Ayoub sisters held an exceptionally well organized contest and class for the children, teaching them the competitive spirit and introducing them to the sport of fencing.
Balsam and Lulwa Al Ayoub will be inducted as Ashoka Fellows on 14 May, at the Arab World Social Innovation Forum. Through their example, the Al Ayoub sisters are pioneering the change they want to see: working and excelling in the same arenas as men. They are professional fencers who are among the few women dedicated to professional sports in the Gulf region, where laws and traditions inhibit girls from competing in sports . The Al Ayoub sisters are paving the way for a new generation of women athletes, teaching their young students that the sky is the limit.
Ashoka Sports Day was another small step in producing an “Everyone a Changemaker” society. As AAW Officer Inji El Abd said, “Instead of organizing workshops and lectures, we chose to introduce Ashoka to young Egyptians through our Sports Day and Concert. As a result, we have increased interest in volunteering for Ashoka.”