News / Middle East

Palestinian Women with a Need for Speed

Members of the Speed Sisters
Members of the Speed Sisters

Multimedia

Audio

A different kind of racing team is speeding into the world of motorsports in the West Bank.

Out of the BMW racing car steps the driver, wearing a yellow and black racing suit. With sunglasses and a helmet, no one would notice anything unusual, until the driver removes the helmet. With a curly ponytail and a grin from ear to ear, female racing team captain Suna Aweidah waves to the crowd of onlookers.

Aweidah is a part of a group of women known as the Speed Sisters. The eight-member, all-female Palestinian motorsports team is racing through gender barriers in the West Bank. For Suna Aweidah, the Speed Sisters are a dream come true and the highest point in her struggle to fulfill an ambition of becoming a racecar driver. But as she explains, not everyone in the West Bank was equally excited to see females on the male-dominated racing track.

"My family was not happy for me to start participating in this kind of sport, because it was: I will race individually and because it was unforeseen and not safe and mainly for men and all of this. So now I'm adding this team, this I think, will encourage more of the girls as a family to participate and join the team," she said.

The Speed Sisters, aged 18 to 39, are Muslims and Christians; from all walks of life. A former beauty pageant contestant, mothers, a librarian, a business student, and two drivers who were born into racing families have come together to form the Speed Sisters.  Aweidah says, while in the driver's seat of a racing car, there is no difference between men and women.

"This means, for us and for me, this means to prove that a woman can do what they want, whenever they want. And there is no sport that is especially for men or especially for women. I think that driving - many of the people think that driving is just for men. I don't think that. Driving is for women, for men, it's a sport. And we can compete with men in all kinds of sports," she said.

In June, the Speed Sisters became the first all-female racing team to compete in the Speed Test, a popular race in West Bank. The Speed Test takes place on a homemade track full of obstacles and twists and turns, through which contestants weave in and out at breath-taking speeds. Even though the Speed Sisters faced some mechanical problems, a team member finished in the top 10, a feat that no one expected them to accomplish.

Some of the success of the Speed Sisters comes from a relationship they developed with renowned British professional race driving instructor Helen Elstrop. She gave the Speed Sisters driving lessons.  They also got funding to buy a racecar from the British Consulate in Jerusalem.   Sue Sanders, a senior figure in British motorsports, mentored the Speed Sisters and knew right away they had what it took to overcome the gender barrier in the world of car racing.

"When Suna, particularly said to me, 'I really want to be best.' It was just an instant affinity. And it really didn't matter whether we had the same language or the same culture, but we actually had the same passion and the same desires to achieve things. So there was no gap. It didn't matter about anything else at all. That gap was completely eliminated," she said.

The Speed Sisters have adorned their racecar with the Palestinian flag and the British flag and say they are proud to join an international sisterhood of speed. Sanders and the rest of the British Women in Motorsports group understand the difficulties the Palestinian women face and are proud to help them, seeing no difference between themselves and the female racecar drivers far away in the West Bank.

"For the ladies in Palestine, having Helen and I there, they were able to see that, yes they have a lot of difficulties in their country and yes, they have so many more hurdles to overcome and they still have some of those prejudices they have to deal with. But actually, in our own way, even in the UK, we've had some of those things and yet we've still been able to get there. We've still been able to achieve the end results. They have kind spirits. There are a lot of miles between us, but actually not a lot of distance between us in mentality," Sanders said.

Suna Aweidah and her fellow Speed Sisters hope one day to represent the West Bank in competitions abroad.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid