The Saudi Arabian minister of education decided on Tuesday to start a physical education programme in girls' schools for the first time in Saudi Arabia, starting in the next school year.
In a statement published by the Saudi press, Ahmed Al-Eissa said that the programme is designed according to the rules of sharia (Islamic law) and will be applied gradually according to the logistics of each school, until facilities in schools are prepared to accommodate such a programme.
The ministerial decision also includes the formation of a committee to oversee the program and work with universities to prepare women specialists who will contribute to the introduction of the innovative plan.
In the ultra-conservative country, these types of classes were banned until in 2013 the ministry of education announced that it was developing this program and training 9,000 physical education teachers.
In recent months, local NGOs have pressured the authorities to start the program as soon as possible, as the rate of obesity among women has reached 62 percent.
In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive or travel outside the country without a family member or guardian, among other restrictions that greatly limit their participation in social life and in the public sphere.