Saudi women break world record for breast cancer awareness

Saudi women break world record for breast cancer awareness
3 min read
13 December, 2015
Ten thousand Saudi women packed a Riyadh stadium on Saturday to highlight the deadly impact of breast cancer, as well as celebrate the steady progress of women in the country.
Tamtam's song was written about a family member's battle with breast cancer [Tamtam]

While Saudi women went out to vote for the first time in local elections on Saturday, a stadium in the capital also hosted an event that marked another milestone for women in the kingdom.

Ten thousand women packed a football stadium in Riyadh - usually out-of-bounds on matchdays - and formed the world's largest 'human awareness ribbon'.

The Guinness world record event was organised and executed by women. It was another modest but significant achievement for women amid ongoing struggles between conservatives and progressives.


Symbolising the pink ribbon worn by women to spread awareness about the disease - and the leading form of cancer among women in Saudi Arabia - the 10KSA-organised event could help to save lives in the country.

Breast cancer, while not taboo, is also little discussed in Saudi Arabia. A lack of awareness of how to detect the disease and seek treatment has led to many uncecessary deaths.

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest mortality rates from preventitive diseases in the world. Breast cancer like many others can be more easily treated if detected early.

But the event organised by Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud was also a chance to shine a light on wider issues affecting women in Saudi Arabia.

"We have put a spotlight on other incredible women led businesses and groups in the region," the entrepreneur told online magazine, Elan.  

"We need to promote and uplift one another. There is a lot of emerging talent in KSA."

One person the organisers promoted through the event was the talented Saudi pop alternative artists Tamtam, who is now based in the US.

Her song We've Got Wings was chosen as the official anthem for the event and it was inspired by a personal experience with the disease.

"My aunt is a breast cancer survivor, and surviving this disease made her so strong and so positive about the world," Tamtam told al-Araby al-Jadeed

"I thought about my aunt when I wrote We've got Wings, and I thought about women all over the world who might be affected by the disease."


Tamtam said that she was happy to back the 10KSA event because of its efforts to encourage women to gain more awareness about their health. She also wanted to give hope to those already suffering from the disease.

"I wanted the song to carry the struggle of someone battling breast cancer, but more importantly, I wanted it to have a message of hope that outweighs this struggle."

Organisers said a key aim was to encourage women to take the lead in promoting healthy living - at home and in their communities, where sedentary lifestyles are often the norm.

The event was sponsored by Prince al-Waleed bin-Talal's foundation - which received a $32 billion injection this year from the Saudi entrepreneur's personal fortune - and aims at empowering women, development and community-building in the region.

With help such as this, Saudi women make remarkable achievements in business and education in the face of conservative societal pressures and legal restrictions.

Saturday's voting and the breast cancer awareness event were small but symbolic markers of this. 

"[The event] is a huge accomplishment along with women being able to vote in municipal elections. Saudi women are ready to show the world how independent they can be," said Tamtam.

"I feel happy and proud of all of the women who voted and all of the women who stood up together for breast cancer. These accomplishments are the first of many positive changes to come for Saudi Arabia."