“I think as a woman, being a professional athlete is definitely something that motivates me and inspires me, and is a driving force rather than a distraction.” Egyptian Olympic swimmer Farida Osman may only be 24 years old, but she’s already making lasting strides towards shattering stereotypes about Middle Eastern women in sports one record-breaking race at a time. Whether it’s medaling at both the 2017 and 2019 World Championships and becoming the first Egyptian swimmer to do so or it’s competing at two Olympic Games and setting a new African record, Osman is transforming the perception of female Arab athletes around the world.
“The stereotype about Middle Eastern women is not really excelling in sports,” said Osman. “I try my best to change that and try to inspire and encourage young female athletes to pursue sports in general.”
This young trailblazer is one of the many inspiring women from the Arab world who participated in the inaugural WILL Summit last week at the Rosewood Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Presented by Nervora, Vogue Arabia, UN Women, and the General Women’s Union, the all-day event sponsored by Neutrogena and Bulgari, promoted female empowerment in the region by providing an interactive platform for powerful women to share their success stories and hopeful visions of the future.
“What drives me and just makes me really ambitious is breaking barriers,” said Osman.
Leading a generation of strong women and inspiring strong generations of women to follow, many of the speakers had nuggets of wisdom for the local youth to not only perpetuate the cycle of awareness but also enact positive societal change — no matter what it takes.
“I would say to young Arab girls that please pursue sports,” concluded Osman. “At the end of the day, it’s your journey, you’re in control of it. Just do whatever it takes until it becomes a reality. Commitment, discipline, sacrifice, patience.”