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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.