More than 500 women have participated in a collaborative programme from British Triathlon and Muslimah Sports Association (MSA) which aims to get local women in London involved in weekly cycling and running sessions.
The partnership, which has been running since 2018, will provide a safe and positive environment in which the women can build their confidence without compromising religious or cultural beliefs.
What started as a six-week programme has developed into continuous sessions, with a core group of regular women participating throughout the year.
Yashmin Harun, Chair and Founder of MSA, said: “When British Triathlon approached us about the sessions it appealed to us as a good way to help women participate in two activities that need little specialist equipment.
“British Triathlon had the contact with the cycling centre which allowed us to hire the venue at the right time and in a safe environment for the women, as well recruit qualified coaches to the sessions. The partnership has allowed us to help women who always wanted to learn to ride, but never knew where to start.”
The women-only sessions allow female Muslims who wear a hijab the freedom to participate without wearing one if they feel comfortable to, knowing that all participants and coaches are female.
For many Muslim women, modesty in public can be a barrier to participation, and the sessions are accommodating to women who choose to participate with or without a hijab.
“There are some cultural and religious barriers that Muslim women face when it comes to exercise,” Yashmin told britishtriathlon.org. “However, these sessions were able to overcome them.
“The timing of the sessions is really important as it is during the school day, which allows stay-at-home mums to participate having dropped their children at school and opportunity for women who couldn’t access our existing evening activities.
“The cycling centre provides bikes, helmets, seats, gloves and any other equipment needed so this makes it more accessible to the participants as well.
“Some of the ladies have learned to ride a bike and have really fallen in love with biking and running. The women have also forged strong friendships and a social circle which they engage with outside of the sessions.”
The programme has worked with local female coaches to help deliver the sessions, helping to give expert advice and support to the women, and helping to build their confidence and cycling and running skills.
“We’ve created a relaxed environment in the group that’s welcoming to any new member who wants to join,” commented Dawn Hunter, one of the British Triathlon qualified coaches.
“It’s all about encouraging the women to feel confident and comfortable when taking part. Everything is optional and adaptable to the women, whilst always helping them to develop the basic skills they need to get involved.”
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