As more Saudi women take advantage of the recent loosening of restrictions on their movements by signing up for fitness classes and with running collectives, one little girl is working hard and training hard to turn her dream into a reality.
Aya Shata is only seven years old but already has her mind set on representing the Kingdom at the Olympics when she grows up and winning a few gold medals along the way. Aya, Saudi Arabia’s youngest gymnast, started teaching herself gymnastics at the age of 2 and asked to be enrolled in camps whenever the opportunity presented itself.
According to her mother, Dr. Dania Bogari, Aya has always been determined and enthusiastic about all kinds of sports, from ballet to football to basketball, and she is a girl who “will go to the ends of the earth” to become a world-class gymnast.
“Even when Aya was 2, I noticed that she was different from other children. She was very determined. She was passionate about gymnastics. Other kids were not — they used to cry. I felt like their mothers were pushing them into it. Aya is different, she loves to go and actually asks me to take her to gymnastics,” explained Bogari.
Bogari believes that her daughter’s determination is an inspiration to all, regardless of gender or age. She explained to the news portal that Aya has played football in an all-boys team, fitting in perfectly and performing well, and she also plays with older children.
With regards to nurturing young talent in the Kingdom, Bogari believes that Saudi Arabia should work more on encouraging the country’s youth through well-designed programs, pointing to the success of the United Arab Emirates’ Youth Ambassador Program.
Saudi Arabia has been working over the last few months on encouraging women across the country to take up sports, especially with the key appointment of Princess Reema Bint Bandar as President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, making her the first woman to lead a sports federation in the Kingdom.
In addition, health and fitness personalities such as Amal Baatia – the first female Saudi gymnastics trainer – are working diligently on engaging women to take up fitness activities and adopt healthier lifestyles, as well as motivating them to enter fields that have traditionally been dominated by men.
Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s plan for economic reform spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the expansion of women’s rights and increased female participation in all facets of life has been placed at the forefront of reformation efforts.