Gaza female bodybuilder is breaking the mould


Palestinian fitness guru Sheerin al-Ila, who is today a nutrition consultant, a bodybuilder and trainer, was one of the first women in the coastal enclave to break gender stereotypes and advance equality in the sport

Elior Levy –

For the past six years, 33-year-old Sheerin al-Ila has been involved in the male-dominated world of bodybuilding – and while Gaza as a society can be viewed as somewhat conservative, this hasn’t stopped al-Ila from partaking.

Al-Ila, who studied law in the past, started dabbling in bodybuilding in 2014 on her own, with no trainers and no guidance save for the online classes she found herself.

Sheerin al-Ila in the gym

(Photo: Courtesy)

“When I started in the field, I was one of the first [women] to work out in the gym,” she says. “But over time this field has evolved and today it is something almost routine.”

Due to the conservative nature of her society and the growing interest of women in exercising in a proper environment, several gyms throughout the Strip have prepared a daily schedule that sets aside certain hours for women only.

“Women have the right to engage in any activity they desire as long as it is within reason,” al-Ila says, adding that the decision to break the boundaries of Palestinian society was indeed a tough and frightening one.


“When people see something new they know nothing about, their first reaction is to attack it,” says al-Ila.

“This is the natural way of Arab society. Over time though, people began to understand that women also need fitness training.”

In 2019, after four years of intensive training and setting an example for change and equality, al-Ila began working as a fitness trainer in addition to her work in the field of law.

Even so, al-Ila says that her daily training routine, which she completes in the open air, often draws astonished reactions from passersby.


I have no problem with people looking at me strangely. I can easily overcome it,” al-Ila says.

She has taken to social media to advance the notion of exercise for women to as many women as she can in the Strip, in addition to her role as a nutrition consultant for local television.

“Sport helps women to integrate effectively in society, it improves their self-confidence and helps them maintain their good shape and health,” she says.



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