Egyptian Athlete Uses The Power of Sport to Empower Women in Under-Served Communities

In 2018, Jomana Ismail Attia Aly Attia set out on a 559-mile walk across Egypt, a 24-day feat that not only tested her endurance but reignited her sense of purpose. Sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund, the walk aimed to raise awareness around improving the country’s reproductive and maternal healthcare. With the original goal of shedding light on a worthy cause, Jomana’s endeavor opened up her eyes to the gender inequities afflicting the country.

Born and raised in Cairo, Jomana, like most of the girls in her community, led an active lifestyle and reaped the benefits that sports provide. She went on to become a professional gymnast, and credits the sport for shaping who she is today. However, until her marathon trek, Jomana was unaware of Egypt’s deeply embedded traditional gender roles and social stereotypes in other areas of the country. While walking from Aswan to Cairo, she stopped to speak at several youth centers about the importance of sports participation for women and girls in building a sense of self-worth and belonging. She began to see how many women and girls were not allowed the same sporting opportunities afforded to her growing up in the capital city. Upon finishing her 559-mile walk, she was resolved to make a difference. Jomana got to work creating her “Be Active” initiative, designed to empower women in under-served communities through sport. Along with her project, Jomana has taken on a new challenge of stand up paddling (SUP) and became the first Egyptian and Arab woman to participate in the 2019 SUP World Championship in Qingdao. She’s currently a stand up paddling coach with Cairow Water Sports, one of the top high performance sports and recreation academies in Egypt. Jomana recently paddled 155 miles from Minya to Cairo to illuminate the growing concern of pollution in the Nile River.

Through her GSMP experience, Jomana hopes to learn best practices in creating a social development project to better serve rural communities throughout Egypt. She would also like to enhance her leadership skills and build a supportive network of global sports innovators. For GSMP: Empowering Women through Sports 2021, Jomana will be mentored by Tonya Cornileus, Vice President of Human Resources at ESPN, and her team in Bristol, Connecticut.

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