Powerlifter Empowers Women and Breaks Barriers in Sports28 May 2023
In a powerful display of determination and resilience, Tahirah Ali, a 22-year-old Cardiff University student, has shattered stereotypes and challenged the status quo in the world of powerlifting. With her hijab as a symbol of empowerment, she has not only defied expectations but also influenced a change in dress code rules for powerlifting competitions across the UK.
Tahirah’s journey into powerlifting began unexpectedly during an open day at the YMCA gym in Swansea. Instantly drawn to the sport, she found a passion that felt natural and exhilarating. However, being a female Muslim powerlifter was unheard of in her community, where Muslim women in sports often face stigma and perceive the hijab as a barrier. Undeterred, Tahirah embraced her hijab as a source of strength and empowerment.
Yet, Tahirah’s path was not without obstacles. She encountered negative comments and misconceptions, with doubts cast upon her abilities due to her gender and religious background. Disregarding these challenges, she persevered, honing her skills and defying expectations. Today, Tahirah competes in powerlifting competitions, effortlessly lifting weights exceeding double her own body weight—up to an astounding 145kg.
However, Tahirah’s journey took an unexpected turn when she discovered that the required dress code for powerlifting competitions conflicted with her beliefs. The mandatory “singlet,” resembling a swimming suit, left her arms and legs exposed and made her feel uncomfortable. Determined to compete while adhering to her values, she initiated a conversation with the Welsh Powerlifting Association (WPA).
Through that single conversation, Tahirah’s concerns were acknowledged and resolved. The WPA granted her permission to compete while fully covered, respecting her modesty and identity. This breakthrough not only provided a sense of relief but also empowered her to continue pursuing her passion. The WPA’s progressive stance on inclusivity and accommodating different dress codes has since influenced national guidelines.
Tahirah’s remarkable achievements have not gone unnoticed. Her incredible strength, both physically and mentally, has turned her into a role model for other young Muslim women in her community. By pushing the boundaries and dominating the sports field, she aims to inspire others to challenge societal norms and pursue their dreams.
Working closely with her coach, Richard Graysohn Nkhata, Tahirah has not only developed her physical prowess but has also grown as an individual. Nkhata speaks of her incredible potential, stating that she possesses unmatched strength that exceeds conventional standards. He describes her as someone who can “spread her wings” and take on the world, breaking all expectations.
Tahirah’s accomplishments have garnered recognition, earning her a place as a finalist in the Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Association Awards. These prestigious awards celebrate the success and impact of ethnic minority women excelling in their respective fields. Founded by Meena Upadhyaya, the association aims to empower ethnic minority women, identify role models, and promote equality and diversity.
As the awards ceremony approaches, anticipation builds for Tahirah and the other exceptional women who will be honored. Their achievements serve as a testament to the immense talent and resilience within the BAME community, reinforcing the importance of recognizing and celebrating their contributions.
On Saturday, at Cardiff City Hall, 25 winners will be announced across various categories, showcasing the outstanding achievements of ethnic minority women in Wales. Through their stories, they inspire others to challenge barriers, shatter stereotypes, and pursue their dreams.
Tahirah Ali’s extraordinary journey exemplifies the power of determination, resilience, and the ability to overcome societal expectations. With her hijab as a symbol of strength, she has emerged as a trailblazer in the world of power lifting, inspiring countless others to follow in her footsteps. Through her unwavering dedication and refusal to be limited by stereotypes, Tahirah has become a beacon of empowerment for Muslim women in sports.
Her story not only highlights the transformative power of sports but also underscores the importance of inclusivity and understanding within athletic communities. By challenging the dress code rules and promoting accommodation for athletes who wish to compete while adhering to their religious or cultural beliefs, Tahirah has initiated a significant change that paves the way for greater diversity and representation in powerlifting and beyond.
Tahirah’s impact extends far beyond the realm of sports. By actively engaging with her community and working with young people, she is not only breaking physical barriers but also bridging societal gaps. Her presence as a role model empowers young Muslim women to embrace their passions, pursue their dreams, and shatter any limitations imposed by society.
The recognition she has received as a finalist in the Ethnic Minority Welsh Women Achievement Association Awards serves as a testament to her remarkable achievements and the significance of her journey. As she stands among other exceptional women at the awards ceremony, she symbolizes the strength, resilience, and limitless potential within the BAME community.
Tahirah Ali’s story is a powerful reminder that determination knows no bounds, and with the right support and opportunities, individuals can defy expectations and achieve greatness. Her journey is an inspiration to all, reminding us that our differences should be celebrated and that empowerment can be found in embracing who we are.
As Tahirah continues to push the boundaries and inspire others, her impact will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy in the world of sports and beyond. Her courage, strength, and unwavering spirit serve as a clarion call for individuals to break free from societal constraints, follow their passions, and make a lasting impact on the world around them.
In a society that often imposes limitations based on gender, religion, or cultural background, Tahirah Ali’s journey stands as a testament to the power of resilience, empowerment, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. By breaking barriers and defying expectations, she has become a trailblazer, changing the face of powerlifting and inspiring a generation of individuals to embrace their true potential.