Debate began at the Federal National Council over whether girls should choose sports rather than kitchen and cooking skills
21 November 2018| Last updated on 21 November 2018
In a country that aspires to be a leader in all matters, a recent debate has left UAE residents quite shocked.
During a recent Federal National Council meeting, a UAE council member declared that rugby is too "rough" for girls, and instead they should be taking cooking classes to become the "perfect housewife".
Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday 20th November, Ras Al Khaimah representative, Salem AL Shehhi, shared the opinion that cooking classes were disappearing from UAE schools - and learners are instead playing a "dangerous" sport.
“Imagine a girl graduates from school playing rugby but doesn’t know how to cook,” said Mr Al Shehhi during a debate at the UAE's parliament, The National reports.
“This is not my voice calling for this, it is the voice of the people, and it is my responsibility to communicate to you the people’s voice.
“This sport is considered one of the most dangerous sports and today girls are playing it in high school, whereas one of the most important skills to be taught in school has disappeared: cooking classes.”
Reports from the debate do not clarify whether the RAK representative deemed rugby too dangerous for boys to play at school. Nor did he stipulate whether learning to cook was equally as important for male students.
Rugby in the UAE curriculum
Rugby is currently part of the physical education curriculum - for boys and girls - in the UAE, as the country aims to develop local talent in the sport. An agreement was made between the UAE Rugby Federation and the UAE Ministry of Education to help expand the sport within UAE public schools and the local community.
Jameela Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education, said a variety of sports have been introduced in UAE schools - and that the country is excelling in rugby. She added that cooking is also part of the education menu in the country's schools.
“Of course we are preparing to introduce cooking clubs in schools, so girls can learn how to prepare healthy meals,” said Ms Al Muhairi.
“I assure the member that it is important for us to have a variety of activity clubs for boys and girls, and we are working on that.
“Rugby is not alien to us, it has been practiced in the UAE for years and we have the UAE Rugby Federation and the UAE team has won several medals in the sport across Asia.”
When properly executed, Rugby is a fast-paced, energetic game
On the topic of the debate, we asked Robert Duncan, Head of Physical Education at Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai to shed light on the importance of rugby for UAE students.
"I have played rugby with some great cooks so I do not think it is going to inhibit any girls or boys from being a great chef one day however, cooking skills aside, rugby has many benefits for both girls and boys.
"It builds self esteem; there is a position for everyone, big, small, tall, quick, agile. It builds discipline; working hard at practice, arriving on time, making a commitment to the team. It promotes teamwork and communication; building healthy relationships, supporting teammates.
"It also promotes health and nutrition; taking care of their bodies, improving mobility, being mindful of healthy eating. In addition to these items there is the obvious benefit of improving cardiovascular and physical fitness", he added.
Duncan further explained that while rugby tends to get labeled rough and "dangerous", when the skills are properly taught and properly executed it makes for a fast paced, energetic game, with lots of continuity.
Obesity levels in the UAE
The debate was reportedly sparked due to a discussion regarding obesity levels in the UAE - and playing sports and healthy eating play a huge part in the reduction of obesity.
FNC speaker Dr Amal Al Qubaisi said that playing rugby has “benefits to the human body”.
“We are not necessarily talking about playing it professionally, but of its benefits to the human body,” Dr Al Qubaisi said.
“There is a sports philosophy for schools, because the health and fitness aspect is not less important than the intellectual side.
“There should be equal opportunities for boys and girls."
Obesity rates have in fact dropped across the UAE as a whole - in 2017, the rate fell to 13.6% from 14.4% the year before.