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Muslim Named Sunday Times Grassroots Sportswoman of 2020

A Muslim wife, mother, nurse and rugby player has been named the Sunday Times grassroots sportswoman of the year 2020, in recognition of her inspirational impact on female players across the UK, Ghana, and Morocco.

Known as Zee, Zainab Alema works in NHS frontline as an intensive care neonatal nurse at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.

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The Barnes RFC player is also the founder of rugby charity “Studs In The Mud” which provides equipment and funding to allow women to play where rugby.

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“Zainab is truly inspiring and we wish her the very best with all her future endeavors and congratulate her for the fantastic impact she is having in growing our sport,” said Barnes President, David Doonan, England Rugby reported.

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The award has of course thrown Zainab and the whole family into great joy and wild celebration.

“I got a call from my team mate Sarah Bosworth after the school run one day and she told me she had nominated me and I’d been shortlisted,” says Zainab.

“It took a while to sink in that they wanted to interview me. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone but when I did tell my family I’d won everyone was screaming. 

Charity Efforts

Studs In The Mud uses rugby to help change people’s lives for the better, shipping out kit around the world particularly for women and children to be able to play.

Zainab also has a project aiming to encourage more Muslim women to try rugby and become part of a truly diverse rugby community.

Smashing and demolishing stereotypes, Zainab defined her philosophy on life as a career woman, wife, mother and rugby player.

Zainab currently plays at Barnes Rugby Club where she feels very much at home and says “We had another black woman join us because of me, and that’s brilliant.”

Around the world, Muslim women are defying stereotypes to compete and excel at the highest levels of sports. This includes football, fencing, weightlifting, basketball, ice hockey and more.

In 2016, 14 Muslim women medaled in the Rio Olympics. This included American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman to represent the United States on the podium.