British Fencing and its partner Maslaha have published the ‘Beyond the Buzzwords’ report which looks at learnings from the Muslim Girls Fence project.
Muslim Girls Fence is a collaboration between the national governing body and Maslaha, the charity which creates new ways of tackling long-standing issues affecting Muslim communities.
It brings together the sport of fencing, conversation and creativity, and is open to all women yet centres on the needs of Muslim women. Participants attend a series of fencing classes and immersive creative workshops designed around topics of conversation chosen by them and on their own terms.
The partnership began in 2015 and has since grown from working in schools to working with community groups across the country, including in Birmingham, Doncaster, Bradford and London. The project is supported by Comic Relief and Sport England.
The new report seeks to look beyond the buzzwords of ‘engagement’, ‘outreach’ and ‘diversity’ and aims to 'bust' the myth of ‘hard-to-reach communities’ within the sport and wellbeing sector.
It states: “Muslim Girls Fence is complex. The project connects activities — sport, art and discussion —that are usually practised separately. It is offered to Muslim women, but is also open to all women. Its list of objectives ranges from the concrete (increased levels of fitness and wellbeing) to the aspirational (changing perceptions in the mass media). All this is complex, but it works.”
Virginia Bailey, Head of Participation at British Fencing, said: “Our partnership with Maslaha has challenged our thinking and shifted the emphasis from ‘Muslim women are hard to reach’ to ‘what are we doing to eliminate the barriers that sport can present?
“Now more than ever, it’s vital that partnerships and projects like this exist in the sector.”