By Neha Aggarwal
On day one at the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia, USA last week, there were some really impressive women who displayed world class table tennis. Amongst many, there was one woman, clad in a t-shirt and track pants, lone representative from the African continent, winning hearts. Each stroke executed by Egypt’s Dina Meshref gave the higher ranked Georgina Pota nightmares. The score of 4-1 (7-11, 11-9, 13-11, 11-7, 11-8) in favor of Georgina Pota is probably not the true reflection of the qualify of the game displayed by both the players.
Although Dina lost the match, she displayed a classic game of close to the table counter attacks. Have a look:
In Egypt, positive trends of gender equality and women empowerment have emerged in the recent times, however, a 2015 Human Development Report by United Nations Development Program still shows some alarming stats:
Egypt ranks 131 on the Gender Inequality Index out of 155 countries. Women hold only 2.2 per cent of parliamentary seats, 44 per cent have reached at least secondary education compared to 60 per cent of their male counterparts, and 23 per cent participate in the labour market compared to 74 per cent for men.
With such a situation in the country, its uncommon to see women indulging into sports. However, there are a few exceptions. Dina Meshref is one of those.
A 2-time Olympian and winner of All-African Games and African Championships in 2015, 22-year old Dina has successfully claimed her domination in Africa in the sport of table tennis. She also broke into top 100 world ranking in December 2015. A successful junior, Dina made a smooth transition to a prosperous table tennis career at the senior level.
Not only a winner in the sport of table tennis, Dina is also a winner in education. She is currently pursuing a degree in Business Administration at American University, Cairo. Reflecting on the dual responsibilities as an athlete and as a student Dina said,
“Of course it is a challenge to manage both. Time Management is the key. I am used to this because since I was in elementary school, I had to do the same thing: study to get good grades and practice table tennis everyday”
To achieve something what others have never achieved, you need to do something what other have never done. Dina is probably the the only woman from Africa who is consistently performing well at the international arena in the recent times. Since her early days, Dina would spend her summers in China in training camps to improve her skills. Till date, she continues to do so. Those efforts to send months in China have been a catalyst in her success.
Dina explains that the current situation for women to play sports in Egypt is improving. The society is encouraging more and more young girls to indulge into sport and is providing support to be successful in it. Dina has an incredible support from her family that helps her pursue her dreams.
In the recently concluded Olympic Games in Rio, Egypt sent a delegation of 120 athletes in 22 sports that brought home 3 medals. They had their own “first” as Sara Ahmed became the first Egyptian woman to stand on an Olympic podium when she won a bronze medal in her 69-kilogram weight class.
Africa needs more of such Saras and Dinas that are pursuing their passions to do the impossible and make their mark in the world.
With increased support from family, determination and the skills to compete at the highest level and the ability to work hard, Dina is inspiring the young generation of Egyptian girls to dream and work towards fulfilling those ambitions.
A message for young girls, Dina says,
“I tell them to work hard, try to manage both studies and sports. Doing both is possible and better for your long term well being. Its important to do things right with focus and concentration.”
Some women just defy odds to pursue their dreams.
Dina Meshref, a role model for young girls in Africa, is certainly doing so. She is on the path to break stereotypes and purse excellence in whatever she does. She is undoubtedly a role model for the young girls who seek inspiration and strength to pursue their own dreams.