What better way to celebrate a landmark day for Emirati women than to speak to a female athlete crushing Arab stereotypes one ice-skating blade at a time?
We got together with international figure skater Zahra Lari to discuss gender equality and opportunities for Emirati women - and this is what she had to say: "It makes me happy to be viewed as a role model. It’s important to inspire Arab women to break any stereotypes that are out there, because they can. However big their dream, I want to tell them to go after it. They can seriously, 100 per cent achieve anything they want to."
Zahra, 23, who is Abu Dhabi born and raised, became the first figure skater to compete on an international level in a hijab and as a practicing Muslim last year. Following her performance she had points deducted for outfit violation, but after fighting the mark down, Zahra eventually had the rules changed for good.
“It was a huge breakthrough for the whole world," Zahra gushes. "I changed something in the sport that didn’t exist. Now there are so many girls around the world doing figure skating. You can be skating and covered. I broke the traditions of the sport."
Looking forward, Zahra is an ambassador for the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, which will be taking place in March. "I’m supporting the extremely talented athletes, particularly females. They need to be shown to the world," Zahra says.
She adds: "I support females 100 per cent. In recent years we’ve seen so much positive change in the UAE – now you see fathers and brothers supporting their female relatives at sporting events and beyond. The country is pushing for women to go and do things. It’s a great step for the UAE."
Zahra is also working towards being the first winter Olympian from the UAE to participate in the Winter Olympics in 2022. "I’m doing preparation for that now," Zahra explains. "It’s a big goal but I’ll do everything I can to accomplish it. I train six days a week and five to six hours a day. Every day I try to improve and push myself."
Zahra is one impressive lady, that's for sure.