History was once again made this weekend as Saudi Arabia held its first-ever official basketball tournament for women on the 11th of November. Sponsored by the General Sports Authority and the Ministry of Health, the tournament took place at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.
The event was attended by around 3,000 women, and brought together local teams such as the Braves, Dar Al Hekma University, Jeddah United, University of Business and Technology, DFAC, and Shoot For A Cause to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Speaking to Saudi daily Okaz, Shura Council member and founder of Jeddah's first private female basketball club, Leena Al Maeena, explained that revenues from the tournament will go towards breast cancer awareness campaigns, and will be used to set up clinics as well.
According to a press release on the Saudi Center for International Communications’ (CIC) website, booths were set up at the venue to provide free screening and health advice to women.
Dr. Manal Shams, head of the Health Education Department at the Ministry of Health, pointed out that the event served two purposes: “[H]ealth education for women and encouraging women to maintain a healthy lifestyle […] Women were also exposed to other forms of exercises that they can do in this country.”
“It was exciting to see the teams being cheered loudly by spectators. Now we are keen to see what happens next. Each day, we are realizing that we have much more scope to contribute to the country than what we used to do. This is our time, a time we must seize to succeed,” said Nora Al Jundi, an organizer.
These events come after Saudi Arabia announced a month ago that women would be allowed into major sport stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam starting next year.
Women participation in sports is on the rise across the Kingdom, with Riyadh getting ready to host the first Saudi Women’s Masters professional squash tournament this month, and Jeddah hosting the first football tournament for Saudi women today.