Step Forward for Women in Saudi Arabia as Physical Education Classes for Girls OKed

Saudi public schools will begin offering physical education for girls in the coming academic year, the education ministry announced on Tuesday, in another step forward for women and girls in the Kingdom.

The long-awaited reform was announced by Education Minister Ahmed al-Issa on Tuesday. The announcement said that P.E. for girls would start with the coming academic year for public school students. Private schools in Saudi Arabia have allowed physical education for girls since 2012.

The Education Ministry said it will introduce the physical education classes “gradually” and “in accordance with (Islamic) Shariah regulations,” according to the Associated Press.  It was unclear if the classes would be extracurricular or mandatory.

“I’m very happy with the issue of the decree and this is a historic day for all Saudi girls in the Kingdom,” Lina Almaeena, a Shura Council member who has worked for over 10 years to implement sports for girls in both public and private schools, told Arab News as republished in The Independent. “We don’t have the logistics, location or setting and a decree such as this is not as easy as many believe it is… [but] I’m an optimist and rather than looking back, we should all look forward.”

Women first participated in Saudi Arabia’s Olympic team during the 2012 London games, and again in the 2016 games in Rio.

In April of this year, a proposal to establish sports education colleges for Saudi women failed to win enough votes in the kingdom’s Shoura Council.