“What will they say about you?” is a question many young Arab females are challenged with at home. Women are met with this phrase from family and friends when they endeavor to try something unexpected or to push boundaries beyond social norms.
"This phrase, it’s every little girl’s nightmare growing up! We hear this every time we do something that might be met with criticism. There’s a fear to stand out and do something that’s not part of the norm. But I’ve learned that, if you genuinely want to do something amazing, you can’t be afraid of hearing this phrase. Don’t be afraid of your own greatness.”
Nike’s “What will they say about you?” campaign launches with a new film highlighting five remarkable women who have achieved personal success through competitive and amateur sport. Despite concerns or criticism, these women hope that the world will say they’re pioneers, role models and strong voices for their region.
The film features both professional and everyday athletes from the Arab region, including Parkour Trainer, Amal Mourad; Figure Skater, Zahra Lari; Pop Singer; Balquees Fathi; Fencer, Inès Boubakri; and Boxer, Arifa Bseiso. Narration is done by Fatima Al-Banawi, a Saudi Arabian social researcher, artist, and actress.
ZAHRA LARI – Figure Skater, UAE
After driving Zahra to her first figure skating lesson as a young girl, Zahra’s father was hesitant to allow her to start competing seriously. Today, Zahra’s working to qualify for the 2018 Winter Games with the full support of her parents and extended family. Zahra hopes people will say she’s unstoppable.
“I’ve had a lot of criticism throughout my journey, but I’ve never let that stop me or bring me down. People should know that Emirati athletes are strong. We’re confident women who know what we want to do, and we work very hard to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”
ARIFA BSEISO – Boxer, Jordan
Arifa wasn’t interested in sport until her early 20s. "I didn't have an athletic role model to inspire me growing up," says Arifa. Today, she hopes people will say she's an inspiration to both men and women in the ring, and she hopes to encourage others to find a sport they’re passionate about.
“I want to inspire people to remove the labels they put on themselves. ‘I am not flexible’, ‘I am not strong’, ‘I don’t have the conditioning’. Don’t let this stop you. I love that Nike says ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete’. My message is find YOUR boxing, and let it change you - allow it to transform you for the better.”
BALQUEES FATHI – Singer, UAE
At the start of her career, pop-singer, Balqees Fathi faced many doubts from her family. Someday, she hopes people will say she became an icon.
“When my parents were worried about how I would be perceived as a singer, I told them ‘Be patient and watch. I just might change what other people say’.”
INES BOUBAKRI – Fencer, Tunisia
Growing up in an athletic family, Ines began fencing at the age of four. Despite the support of her family, critics didn’t understand her commitment to the lesser understood sport. Today, with three gold medals to her name, Ines hopes people will say she triumphed.
“I hope they’ll say that, despite the odds, I triumphed. From the podium in Rio, I dedicated my medals to all Arab women, and I hope my success can inspire others to surround themselves with positive people who push you to reach your goals and go for it.”
AMAL MURAD – Parkour Trainer, UAE
Amal Murad’s parents didn’t understand her passion for parkour until they saw the positive response to her sport on social media. Today, her family is proud to say that people see her as a light for others.
“At first, you may have to prove to your family that you’re capable by believing in yourself. Not in the sense that you must go against them, just start with small steps - take classes in an all-female gym. There’s so much joy and freedom that fitness can bring to everyone’s life.”
These strong women are helping to create positive change through sport and fitness, and they all hope that sharing their stories will inspire others, and turn the phrase “What will they say about you?” into a positive question with powerful answers.