Saudi swimming instructor and lifeguard, Nawal Al Atwi has taken the personal decision to help reduce the number of drowning incidents in Saudi Arabia – and not only does she want to raise awareness about swimming safely, but hopes that more women in the kingdom will choose to become lifeguards and qualified rescuers.
Al Atwi is supported by the Saudi Life Saving Federation and helps to prepare women for life-saving courses that are being conducted across the Kingdom, including courses in Riyadh, Dammam, and Tabuk.
Once completed, participants in the courses become certified lifeguards for two years and they must then undertake a fitness test. Nawal Al Atwi hails from and lives in Tabuk, and has taken on the task of educating people in the kingdom about understanding water-danger and why learning how rescue can be a valuable skill. She said in a statement, “I had heard tragic stories of men, women, and children in my area dying in drowning incidents, and it saddened me a lot. Learning water rescue is very important, and I want to teach as many people as possible.” Adding, “We seek to advocate and educate to decrease the number of drownings.”
The Saudi Life Saving Federation is now offering specialized courses and technical training in water rescue for Saudi women. Al Atwi also spoke about the courses, “These courses, given to qualified Saudi girls, are the beginning of organizing specialized technical courses in various regions of the Kingdom. I learned to swim as a child in the sea. The Red Sea was a great school — it has shaped my identity in the field of swimming and rescue,” she said.
Nawal Al Atwi is unique in that at the young age of just 10 years old, she saved a man from drowning.
“The incident marked me and helped me not to fear water, no matter how deep it was,” she said.
Prior to becoming a certified lifeguard with the federation in the Tabuk region, Al Atwi was a volunteer lifeguard for three years.
She added, “I aim to put all my efforts into reducing incidents of drowning, while educating people about potential water dangers. I am now a lifeguard. It is not as easy as many people think. Water rescue can be a very dangerous operation that requires tremendous skills.” Continuing, “Rescuing is about learning how to assess the severity of a situation, how to handle people who are irritated, quiet, or have fractures. It is also a religious duty, as stipulated in the Qur’anic verse, ‘saving one life is saving humanity.’”
Lifeguards are qualified in being able to save people from drowning in not only swimming pools but also the sea, rivers, lakes, canals, and floods, among other water environments, and are also qualified to provide emergency first aid.