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Wed 3 Aug 2016 12:50 PM

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Princess Reema appointment hailed as 'groundbreaking boost to Saudi women in sports'

Social activist appointed as vice-president of women’s section of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Sports on Monday

Princess Reema appointment hailed as 'groundbreaking boost to Saudi women in sports'
Saudi Arabias Sarah Attar competes in the womens 800m heats at the athletics event of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 in London. (Franck Fife/AFP/GettyImages)

Female sports campaigners in Saudi Arabia have welcomed the appointment of Princess Reema Bint Bandar as de facto minister for women’s sports.

The Council of Ministers on Monday appointed Princess Reema as vice-president of the newly created women’s section of the General Authority for Sports.

Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shahrkhani became the first Saudi women athletes to participate in an official competition in the 2012 Olympics. Prior to that, only Saudi men were allowed to take part.

Since then, women in the kingdom have been campaigning for increased access to sports for female competitors – and 41-year-old Princess Reema has been leading the way.

The Riyadh-born entrepreneur, social activist and former CEO spent much of her childhood in the US where her father was the Saudi ambassador for 22 years. She earned a degree in Museum Studies from George Washington University.

As a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia she launched an influential campaign 2015 to spread awareness about breast cancer.

On Wednesday, Saudi Gazette reported that female sports enthusiasts described her appointment as a good move for women’s sports in the kingdom.

Al Ahli Football Club Ambassador Nouf Omar was quoted as saying: “Now we can have our own space to practice sports without compromising our values and morals.

“We have the right to practice sports as men do.”

Sports activist Majeedah Al Shibani added: “We are looking forward to decisions in our favour.

“Saudi women are highly qualified to represent the kingdom in sports just as we have represented the kingdom in every other field.”

Sports activist Ahlam Digny told the newspaper that Princess Reema’s appointment would help the General Authority for Sports to come up with practical solutions to obstacles facing Saudi women athletes.

Four Saudi women will compete in the Rio Olympics this year: Sarah Attar and Cariman Abu Al Jadail (track and field); Wujud Fahmi (Judoka) and Lubna Al Omair (fencer).

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