How Al Janoub stadium and Zaha Hadid broke traditional stereotypes

When one talks of women’s rights, The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region doesn’t always shine through its glory. We have read stories of gender inequalities with regards to treatment of women and their integration into the society at large isn’t something which is championed. According to Global Gender Gap report, MENA region ranks lowest when it comes to gender equality.

Historically, women have struggled for their rights and didn’t have the freedom to have an independent voice, especially when it wouldn’t conform to the norms and break free of the barriers.

It is also been reported that women are generally consigned to the feminized sectors and even when they do enter the male-dominated spheres, the gender bias comes into play.

The 2022 World Cup is an important milestone as for the very first time, the world’s greatest footballing extravaganza will be hosted in the Arab world. Qatar has taken the ambitious job and are currently busy changing the face of the country’s infrastructure – be it the metro line, hospitality industry, building iconic stadiums and training sites, so on and so forth.

Qatar launched the reworked, revitalized Khalifa Stadium back in May 2017 in what was one of the first venues to be ready for the World Cup.

Zaha Hadid

The first stadium which was literally built from scratch for the World Cup was Al-Wakrah, which is now known as Al Janoub. Interestingly, the one who pioneered the stadium was a lady from Arab region, born in Iraq and thus, playing an important role in breaking all the prevalent stereotypes.

Late Zaha Hadid, who is a world renowned architect, designed a venue which was not just iconic but something that connects the traditional with modernity.

During the opening ceremony at the stadium ahead of the Amir Cup final which was held in the presence of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Hadid's portrait was projected in the centre to honour her work. While this moment might not have been noticed by many, it certainly reflects well on Qatar and the region as a whole.

Qatar, who have taken a progressive stand on women’s issues, have once again shown the way by handing such a key project to a woman and thus also trusting her capabilities.

"The percentage of women working as specialists in various fields accounts for 44% of the total number of Qatari women in the workforce, compared to 21.5% of Qatari men. Overall, labor force participation for Qatari women is roughly 51%—higher than the global average. This extends across both the private and public sectors: Nearly 80% of working Qatari women are employed in government," according to Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, CEO of the Qatar Foundation.

"For far too long, too many women were reluctant to speak up and speak out about their needs in workplace cultures which are fundamentally rooted in the male perspective. That perceived divide—between one’s heritage and making one’s voice heard—is what we have worked so hard to combat. In my view, the two should never be mutually exclusive," said the visionary administrator.

Qatar have been progressing on the lines of what the fourth Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib said once - "Teach your children other than that what you were taught; as they are created for a time other than yours."

The Al Janoub stadium and Zaha Hadid resonates with the vision laid out by Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani.