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29 April 2019 | in NUSF News

Emiratis acknowledge need to highlight more female role models

United Arab Emirates Higher Education Sports Federation (HESF) President Dr. Hamad Karam Al Kaabi says gender equality and female participation in sport is one of the main issues the Federation will reinforce in the years to come. In a freewheeling conversation with FISU Student Ambassador Nouf Al Katheeri, he spoke about the HESF’s vision, goals and strategies. Some excerpts:

FISU: Tell us about how far the HESF has come since it started; and where it wants to reach. What is the HESF vision and long-term goals?

Dr. Al Kaabi:  We have to thank His Highness Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubabruk Al Nahyan, the founder & main supporter of the Higher Education Sports Federation in the United Arab Emirates. Along with the previous group of managers, board of directors and general secretaries, he brought HESF to where it is today. We, in this federation, aim to support the young generation of this country through sport and a wide variety of competitions and platforms for excellence. We have students participating in the national, regional, Arabian, Asian and international levels. We keep working towards improving by enhancing constant participation.


What is the total reach of HESF in terms of numbers of universities and students?

Currently, we have 28 active universities.  The HESF is looking to increase the number of actively participating universities by visiting more universities in person. We are also thinking about making it mandatory for all universities to join these sporting events. We hope that soon, everyone will join the activities of the HESF and increase participation.


How do you engage with all of them so that the message reaches every last student - Is it primarily through the universities, on social media or an email database?

I would begin at the end of your question and say that we’re currently focusing on social media, since it has the most influence on the youth. We have updated our website and are reinforcing our presence on social media platforms. We are still at the beginning of this process, but luckily, our country holds many sporting events and activities, which reach many people, so it makes it easier. Hopefully, our social media platforms will have a significant presence – both within the nation and internationally – in the near future. We’re very interested in being interactive and developing these platforms on a large scale, because we want to have open conversations with the youth, to find out what motivates them to become involved in sports.


What about women’s participation? What is the approach of HESF to encourage women’s participation in university sports?

We have started organising regional championships (for women) and are looking forward to international ones as well. Women have joined the HESF in numbers and some are in leading positions. Almost all activities organised by the HESF includes both genders. We collaborate with the Fatima Bint Mubarak Academy and other organizations that support women in the country; this is an issue we look to greatly reinforce and is not only confined to students. Our upcoming plans include a study of female participation – looking at hindrances to female participation and advantages of their participation. We also intend to highlight Emirati female role models and encouraging our daughters and sisters to reach the highest levels in sports participation.


The UAE is participating in the Napoli 2019 Summer Univesiade; what will be the size of the delegation and what sports do you consider to be your strengths?

We will be nominating the best-suited candidates soon, based on their previous scores and competition history; students who have achieved internationally competitive scores will be chosen of course. The exact numbers of the delegation are still being finalised.


What makes HESF special?

What makes us special is that we try to make sure our beloved UAE is represented in the best way, in every aspect of life, including sports. We utilise all possible resources in the sports and academics fields to make sure that students choose to become ambassadors in these fields during the course of their university studies.