Lulwa Al-Ayoub

Ashoka Fellow
Kuwait,
Fellow Since 2009
Touche

Citation

This profile was prepared when Lulwa Al-Ayoub was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Women in the Gulf are not allowed to become professional athletes, and in some countries, they are not even allowed to play sports. Lulwa and Balsam are deconstructing these taboos in the Gulf area by using sport to change the lives of Arab women. Through the sport of fencing, Al-Ayoub sisters are literally “cutting through” society’s constraints. By becoming active in sports, they believe girls will grow proud, strong, fearless and expressive no matter what their ultimate life’s goal.

Balsam & Lulwa are empowering women in the Gulf through a strategy based on three components. First, through their success in their field, they are setting an example as role models for many girls in Kuwait. They use their status for good by serving as mentors to aspiring fencers, whom they work to empower to compete in the same arenas as men. Second, they are creating a new perception of women as leaders and trainers, as they train young boys and girls on fencing. Third, they are promoting sports among young girls in schools, in order to break the walls of women’s social exclusion. The Al-Ayoub sisters’ efforts motivate and inspire girls to demand more involvement in all walks of life.

In contrast to other regional programs for women empowerment that utilize more conventional approaches like awareness-raising, the Al-Ayoub sisters’ strategy is comprised of a set of modules that break down social taboos, instill the notion of female leadership, and promote greater inclusion of women. As athletes, Al-Ayoub sisters are concerned with spreading the fencing culture among the younger generation, advocating for professional women athletes’ rights, and promoting social responsibility among athletes. They believe that being professional athletes in a world of male athletes will open doors for other females to join all kind of sports and thus be empowered.

Although there are very few COs in Kuwait, most if not all, are government controlled and funded. Al-Ayoub sisters realized that for their idea to succeed and spread, they have to ensure freedom, independence and sustainability. They did not want to associate their entrepreneurial idea for empowering girls and women to traditional and conservative perception of COs in the region. To date, they have managed to raise funds to sponsor themselves and their pupils. They themselves contributed and sponsored tournaments.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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