Accessing sport can be difficult for diverse young women and this is often reflected in the lower participation rates for young women from ethnically diverse backgrounds. The Connecting with Diversity Toolkit identifies a number of unique barriers preventing these young women accessing sport – and notes that these barriers can sometimes pose a particular challenge for young Muslim women wanting to participate in sport and recreation.
Connect2sport’s Ladies-Only badminton and Futsal programme aims to address these challenges and provide a safe and welcoming female only space for diverse young women wanting to participate in sport. The programme was developed in close partnership with the Young Muslim Women’s Association (YMWA), the Refugee Youth Action Network (RYAN) and the Lynfield Recreation Centre. The YMWA were able to help Connect2sport better understand diverse young women’s unique needs. The Lynfield Recreation Centre had a successful history of delivery Ladies-Only Programmes.
Consultation with the YMWA and RYAN identified that environment and timing are key. Diverse young women need to feel safe and secure and know that their unique needs are provided for. Requirements included:
|A female only space||Black out curtains were installed in the centre’s gymnasium to guarantee a female only environment while the rest of the centre operated as business as usual.A number of signs were also placed outside the gymnasium and around the Centre so that members were aware the gymnasium was a female only space.|
|Female staff||Connect2sport employed female referees and coaches to run the Badminton and Futsal sessions. The project employed the same staff throughout the entire programme to ensure the girls felt at ease. Lynfield Recreation Centre ensured female staff were available at reception to greet the girls and show them to the gymnasium.Project partners also ensured a female representative was available outside the gymnasium to take registrations and fees.|
|Familiar location||Participants (and their parents) want to feel safe coming to and from the programme. They want somewhere familiar that feels safe and is easy to access. The Lynfield Recreation and Youth Centre was identified as a safe, familiar and easy to access venue. Having well lit car parking right outside the centre helped.Zayed College at times provided a van to transport girls living outside of the area.|
|Suitable time||In terms of safety, participants and their parents prefer programmes not to finish too late at night.It is important programmes are at a time that fits in with study/family/religious commitments. Programmes were originally offered between 6pm and 9pm at night but the preferred time identified in participant feedback was 6.30 to 8.30pm.|
|Welcoming environment||Participants want a welcoming, fun and supportive atmosphere. Feeling comfortable and secure is paramount, closely followed by socialising and meeting new people, the physical activity and learning new skills.Feedback from participants showed how important it is for diverse young women to have a space that feels like their own – a place where they feel they fit in and feel safe and comfortable.|
|A prayer space||The Centre provided a private and safe space for the attendees to pray in.|
Focus groups with participants found that in terms of impact all enjoyed taking part in the programme – many indicated it had exceeded their expectations, particularly the manner in which their need for privacy had been met. Here’s what some of the participants had to say about the programme: [insert link to video with participant quotes]
It is worth noting that while the majority of participants are keen for the programme to continue, at this stage participants are comfortable playing informally on a casual basis. Any move to a more competitive team based league format may be something for the future but, if implemented now, is likely to be resisted. Few, if any, of this group are likely to progress to club membership with concerns about ‘security’ (i.e., their privacy) in a mixed gender environment paramount. They would need a women only environment to feel comfortable and to be able to wear non-restrictive clothing – this was seen as not being likely in a club situation. Other barriers include:
- a perception that those in a club would already have highly developed skills, and their playing was not up to the required standard
- the ‘serious’ nature of club sport – most of the young women preferred to play non-competitive (they don’t like to be put into teams), social badminton and football
Here’s what some of the participants had to say about the programme: