Barnes RFC women’s player Zainab Alema has been recognised as the Sunday Times Vitality Grassroots Sportswoman of the Year 2020.

Alema, who is an Intensive Care Neonatal nurse and the founder of rugby charity ‘Studs In The Mud, was honoured for her work in which she helps encourage black and Muslim women and girls to take up rugby.

Affectionately known as Zee, she has had an significant inspirational impact on female players across the UK and in Ghana and Morocco whilst her charity aims to provide equipment and funding to women so they are able to play the sport in areas where rugby is not freely on offer.

Alema also has many projects in the pipeline once restrictions are lifted, but in the meantime, she will continue to use her social media presence as a platform for encouraging more women to the game.

Nick Greenslade, deputy sports editor, The Sunday Times said: “Despite the huge disruption this year, we are lucky to have had five fantastic names on the sportswoman shortlist, all of whom had great claims to the crown.

“We also wanted to recognise the efforts made at grassroots and community level during lockdown and beyond. Sport or any form of exercise is so important for the physical and mental health of millions of women – and that is why we have brought in the Young Inspiration and Influencer awards. We have also brought back the Lifetime Achievement award which goes to Sue Barker in recognition of her contribution to tennis and broadcasting.”

The judging panel of SWOTY included Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Rebecca Adlington OBE, Dame Kelly Holmes, Ama Agbeze MBE, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Natalie Sawyer, Gabby Logan, Ellie Simmonds OBE and Heather Knight OBE