South Leeds has a particularly large Asian (predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi) community along with a highly transient population new migrants.
The area also has high rates of the four largest health issues: smoking; obesity; diabetes; and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) as well as larger than average numbers of severe mental health related issues.
The women we work with typically have little disposable income for a gym, consultation with women showed that they would like more opportunities to try a range of physical activities, such as swimming, Aqua, kettle bell, yoga, Zumba and chair exercises for older women. The women have a desire to do things, but they are limited by lack of knowledge or have limited access due to costs of activities or cost of public transport.
Asha Neighbourhood Project aims to tackle barriers of progression for women, underachievement and effects of discrimination and poverty. We aim for the women’s voices to be heard, and to help them have a greater say in their own self-care.
Many have expressed a desire to be more active by trying new activities, but have little knowledge where they can access a friendly women-only session. And due to a lack of confidence, past sexual abuse, body insecurities, or anxieties they will not join mixed sessions.
After the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted Asha spoke to local councillors, Public Health and leisure centres. After months of waiting we were happy to receive email from Cllr Ed Carlisle that Ambassador Naz from Leeds Girls Can were about to start swimming sessions.
We then started to promote the sessions, which run every Tuesday and Thursday 1-2pm, via social media, on Facebook, word of mouth and on WhatsApp groups.
We are taking groups of women, twice a week to take part in the women’s swimming sessions at the John Charles Centre for Sports Aquatic Centre. The sessions give the women the opportunity to do swimming for three months in a space which is safe and welcoming for all, which they can trust or with our support to show them it is easy to access leisure centres.
In the past local women had no access to women-only swimming and female areas in gyms. As well as exercise, the sessions allow women to meet other women to form new friendships, reduce social isolation and meets the needs of different members of a local community.
By introducing them to swimming, we want to help widen the number of trusted, safe spaces the women feel they can access and raise aspirations and increase physical activity and improve their social, physical and emotional well-being. We hope the Leisure centre will continue the sessions and give women space in gym.
This post was written by Tahena Ahmed
Photo: Google Earth
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