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MAKING a difference as a woman in the male-dominated sports world in the Gulf is a challenge for Dalal Al Dossary of Saudi Arabia. She’s not a professional athlete but just a determined Sports CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) consultant focused on uniting communities through sports. StarSport’s RAJES PAUL spoke to the 33-year-old on her calling and commitment.
Q: What is your job scope?
A: I’m a certified CSR consultant specialising in the sport. I assist and interlink the sports sector in recognising its role in the community. As founder and managing director of a sport CSR solutions agency – Impact CSR Solutions – my tasks range greatly. My expertise, though, is on CSR consultancy and developmental strategies. I’m the first female to work as a development officer with the Saudi professional football league.
I have my Masters in Sports CSR with Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and now I’m in my first semester with the University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus) doing my doctorate in professional business administration. I love being in Malaysia (she laughs). I enjoy the multi-facet diversity in this country. Sports associations here can do great things for its community.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
A: During my work as a business developer at the Saudi Professional Football League Commission – SPL, I saw that the gap between sports associations and the community. Though the concept of CSR is widely accepted in our region, utilising sport popularity and famous sports personalities towards the prosperity of the community was a very fresh idea back in 2010, as it was only implemented in the west. I was determined to introduce it to the Gulf region. I have done that and now I am embarking on Asia.
Q: What are the challenges being a female from the Gulf region to be involved in this field?
A: There are number of challenges – starting with introducing the concept of sport CSR itself to the sports associations and using it as a developmental and investment tool, while trying to remove the myth of CSR being a financial burden or charity. Sometimes, the voice of woman is not taken very seriously in these matters. Another challenge is the application of CSR in accordance to international standards as there’s a lack of professional CSR practitioners in the region.
As far as being a female working in a male-dominated industry, it requires a greater degree of perseverance. Giving up is not an option. I believe that efficiency and achievements define a person ... not gender.
Q: There is so much of passion in you to make a difference. Where did it all come from?
I remember this incident – a funny one but it has shaped me in some ways. It was my first day at school and the teacher asked all the students to introduce ourselves and say what we wanted to be. I had no idea why I said this but I actually told her I wanted to be a bird. I think it’s just a reflection of what I wanted to be – exactly the way my mom has raised me – to be free and reach for the sky. My mom is a teacher and did not want me to limit myself. This attitude has shaped my career and my mission to bring prosperity to the community through sports.
Q: How have you impacted your region generally, and women specifically, with your project?
A: For the region, I’m very proud to have created the first disabled-friendly stadium in Qatar; this was initiated in Saudi Arabia. Apart from leading clients to win reputable international awards, I was also specifically chosen to set the criteria of sport CSR awards in Saudi Arabia. As a result, I’ve appeared in the white book for CSR Best Practice and earned the title as “The Sport CSR Leader”.
As for women, I think I’ve paved the way for them to penetrate the sport market from different avenues in my region. In Saudi, women are not allowed to watch football matches in the stadiums. Through CSR activities, we’re hoping to change the mind set ... not the culture. It’ll take time, but I’m confident that in time, it will be accepted.
Q: How do you think that the National Sports Associations (NSAs) in Malaysia can use CSR to help its communities?
A: Sports associations do not have a clear agenda. They also do not want to be involved because of the myth of financial burden. If they can put aside a small budget to strategise, it can be done.
Sports associations can use their stars to promote health programmes to youngsters and that can bring the community together. There can also be programmes to cultivate equality among boys and girls and events to teach the younger generation to respect one another. The sports associations also can help to facilitate fans with disabilities. Sports can help them to blend in with others. It works differently in different countries. We do not have to adopt the template from the west, but we can mould it according to our needs. Ultimately, we want to use sports as the powerful unifying tool.