KUWAIT CITY, April 11: On the United Nation’s third International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, a day which recognizes the ability of athletes and athleticism to promote harmony and erase cultural barriers worldwide, Kuwaiti champion fencer Balsam Al-Ayoub met with the UNDP resident representative Zineb Touimi-Benjelloun to discuss upcoming collaborations centered around Al-Ayoub’s current activities: a wide range of programs and events that highlight the importance of gender equality and women empowerment through sports, among which is Be Strong, a cultural awareness program that taught 382 women from 30 different countries self-defense in its first campaign. “Sport is among the most crucial tools to help achieve sustainable development goals for 2030,” says Zineb Touimi-Benjelloun, UNDP Resident Representative.
The United Nations (UN) is looking forward to collaborate with agents of social change who help to rebuild their society’s understanding of gender via sports. Al-Ayoub’s countless contributions include teaching valuable skills to children that helped them learn about gender equality, responsibility and team spirit. For Al-Ayoub, sports are more than mere competition. They provide the tools necessary to rebuild humanity and culture on principles of peace and cooperation, a sentiment that is shared by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who says, “Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.”
Al-Ayoub has added that she is especially looking forward to seeing Kuwait’s sports in better conditions. At the moment, Kuwait is suspended by The International Olympic Committee for the second time in five years due to government interference. Al-Ayoub believes that the internal conflicts over status and positions negatively impacts athletes who seek only to represent their country with pride in the international arena, but who have now been barred from participating in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The UN has recently selected Al-Ayoub among a group of accomplished and charismatic social influencers to participate in its He for She campaign; she has given a talk on the way sport has changed her life at TEDx, an event organized by Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), and supported by TED global, a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks; and, finally, she has established a committee dedicated to issues that link sport and society at Kuwait Sports Club where she hopes to continue her effort to elevate social understanding of gender equality and women empowerment.