Nura Arabi is changemaker, breaking stereotypes of young children and young women in the UAE and beyond. She is a physical education teacher and a swimming instructor with a health promotion background who passionately advocates for Muslim women to be involved in sports and overcome all barriers for them to achieve that. She also actively encourages children to live a healthy lifestyle from a young age. She is a fitness columnist and a daily radio show guest giving health tips for kids. A proud academic, she is a a member of the research committee PHETE (Physical Health Education Teacher Education) in Canada.
What do you consider the main achievements in your life?
So far I have accomplished many small achievements and have taken many steps forward but those are the steps that I am taking towards my main achievement that is yet to come. For instance, I am writing articles where I give healthy tips on how to carry a health lifestyle; I am also giving daily healthy tips for kids on the radio.
I have contributed to the Toronto Education Board explaining the situation of Muslim women in physical education classes and given speeches at several academic conferences in Canada. I work as a physical education teacher where I touch many young souls and teach them about sports and health.
My main achievement – that is yet to come and an on going endeavour- is to uplift the status of physical education and contribute to build a society that cares about healthy habits looking past any barriers put by society. A society that makes conscious health decisions where health comes first and those decisions are the primary preventions and the primary defence lines against any illness. A society were sports are perceived as an activity for all not just for the talented; not only for competing but for everyone to enjoy.
What drives you to be at the Top of your Game?
My drives to continue being on top of my game are a combination on intrinsic and extrinsic factors. My drive to continue being in sports started in high school when I was the only girl who wore the hijab and was on the cross-country team. There, I saw the lack of representation of Muslim girls and the stereotypes that surrounded it.
Sports were a very connecting medium with people from other ethnics and religious backgrounds that didn’t cause any sensitivity; we were playing in a team and having fun while trying to understand our differences.
Entering the professional field of health promotion and physical education, I awakened to the importance of carrying a healthy lifestyle and was in close touch with it through science and statistics. Many illnesses that are currently on the rise can be simply avoided by living a healthier lifestyle. I try my best to advocate for a healthier lifestyle and help people wake up to that fact.
Being a physical education teacher in the UAE and watching my talented students have their talents put into nothing breaks my heart. Especially knowing that some of them will grow up into wishing that they had a better surrounding that encouraged and pushed their talent to grow or had that talent invested in the right place.
What are your success strategies?
My success strategy consists of listening to people and keeping it simple. I listen to my friends and their struggles when trying to make healthier choices; I listen to my students, to my neighbours and even strangers. I take notes and think how I can make healthy tips simple yet easy to apply. As for sports and physical education, I try my best to communicate directly to parents (working in a school with a lot of rules and regulations can make this step very difficult). I take the chance whenever I can and I am allowed to to tell parents about their child’s talent and how they can nourish it. I try my best to reach out to people through different mediums as well advocating for a healthier lifestyle for example, writing articles and media (radio). In a nutshell, communication and simplicity is my success strategy.
Have you dealt with failure? If so, how did you overcome it and resurge when all the chips were down?
I have dealt with many failures. The path has been full of ups and downs. My main failures and road blocks mainly come from asking for permission and asking for support. I overcome those roadblocks by carving a new path and making opportunities instead of asking for any. Persistence is key. Where there is a will, there is a way.
Finally, it is important for us to recognise the power of men in supporting women. Is there a man who has played an instrumental role in your personal growth and success? Who are they and how did they influence you?
My professor and my friend – Peter Vietgen – an associate professor of Visual Arts Education in the department of teacher Education at Brock University (Canada). He is very supportive of his students and when I shared my passion and my dream with him about physical education and being a Muslim girl in the field of sports, he never hesitated to give me good advice, resources and connections that later propelled me forward and out into the world to make change. He still does.