Nothing is impossible for Racha Kalot

By Brian Canever October 03, 2014

When Racha Kalot discusses the balance an empowered woman needs in order to establish herself in life, it is easy for her to speak from experience.

“To be a strong woman is not just to have a good career,” she says, pausing briefly.

Kalot could finish by saying it is to balance school and sports, like she did in the seven years she spent earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychomotor therapy at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon, while serving as captain of the school’s basketball team.

Or she could speak about religion and friendships, noting how she was one of only four Muslim students — the others her siblings — among 12,000 enrollees at the prestigious French-Catholic institution.

“…It is to have a family and still make a change in your community. Those are the most important things. It is how I measure success.”

Kalot points to the elegant tattoos on her wrists; her mother’s name intertwined with God’s on the left, and her husband’s, Mohamed, on the right, as proof.

Although Kalot happily says that one of her greatest dreams is to be a good mother, it in no way makes her less committed to the fight to erase gender inequality in her country.

It is all about balance, a quality she learned from parents who never discouraged her from forging her own path.

“From a young age, they gave me the chance to play in basketball tournaments all over the world,” says Kalot, who especially enjoyed the university competitions she took part in for Saint Joseph in Barcelona, Milan and Istanbul from 2004 to 2012.

“When they saw that basketball was giving me a leadership personality and confidence to make decisions and communicate they told me stay on that track and not stray,” she says.

After injuries and illness ended Kalot’s career in 2013, she committed herself to her work as a project manager and basketball coach at the U.S.-sponsored NGO, Sports United. On top of that position, Kalot took another job as a therapist with the Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped in order to assist kids with physical, mental and learning disabilities.

“They’re very affected when they see differences between themselves and other children, and it develops an inferiority complex,” says Kalot. “I focus on motor skills and improving their psyche so they can feel the same.”

Kalot was raised in and around Beirut, a diverse city of 2 million with large Muslim, Christian and Druze communities. She says she hopes to impact the lives of other Muslim women in more remote areas throughout Lebanon — culturally conservative places under strong extremist influences.

“Outside Beirut, women assume that men will be the only ones to make decisions and work to bring money home,” says Kalot. “In some parts of the North and South, you see girls getting married as teenagers and having kids before 20. They don’t have time to find out who they are or get their own education to pursue their dreams.”

Through the support of family, as well as her own determination, Kalot has received an education and seen her dreams come to fruition. She says maybe one day she’ll be a minister in the government, open a school or be president of a basketball club.

These are lofty goals, but Kalot knows few limits.

“The word impossible,” she says, “doesn’t exist in my dictionary.”