In the latest in our series of blogs, Fields in Trust's Head of Programmes, Angela Lewis, writes for International Women's Day about getting more women and girls involved in sport.
I've always been passionate about encouraging women and girls to get involved in sport and more broadly, physical activity. In fact back in the dim and distant past my University dissertation was all about the reasons why women did (and did not) take part in sport. Funnily enough, some of the reasons given to me 30 years ago are pretty much the same as research shows to be now: lack of time, no-one to go with, fear of being judged etc. That's why initiatives such as Sport England's This Girl Can are so important to help address some of these issues.
As today is International Women's Day, it seems very appropriate to talk about Fields in Trust's latest programme, in partnership with and funded by the London Marathon Charitable Trust - Active Spaces. Launched last summer, the UK-wide programme aims to get more people active and also to protect valuable local green spaces forever.
If you haven't done any exercise for a number of years, and for women this could be because of any of the reasons outlined above, you are unlikely to think of just turning up to join the local tennis or football club. But your local park or green space is perhaps far less intimidating and this is one of the reasons, as part of our drive to protect green space we have designed the Active Spaces programme. We know from our partners and our research that a green space can become the hub of a local community and a focal point for all sorts of activity, including sport, and that the loss of green space has a negative aspect on its community.
Active Spaces is inviting landowners to apply to protect a green space forever and to put together an 'activation' application for which there is up to £5,000 available. This can be spent on coaching and instruction, promotion, equipment and resources. If landowners don't have the capacity to deliver activity programmes, we are working with the charity Our Parks who have a fantastic track record in getting inactive people active and are happy to deliver on any of the Active Spaces across the UK.
The applications we have received so far illustrate some great examples of partnership working to look at local demographics, make decisions on which 'inactive' group of people to target and how, and perhaps most importantly to look at how new activity programmes can be made sustainable and how they can lead to follow-on opportunities for newly enthused people to carry on with their chosen activity. Applicants are looking at many different groups of people, including those at risk from long-term health conditions, and older people. Activities planned to encourage inactive women and girls include bootcamps, rugby for young women, linked to last year's Women's Rugby World Cup, walking for women who are isolated, activities for parents with very young children, and a Couch to 5k jogging programme, as well as activities aimed at families who want to participate together, a growth area according to this national newspaper article.
I would encourage all local authorities to have a look at Active Spaces and the funding on offer and consider applying, both to get their local community more active and in the long term to ensure they will always have a green space to be active on. Find out how to get in contact.
I think all Mums should encourage their daughters (and sons) to take part in some sort of physical activity but this is less likely to happen when their own experience of sport - most likely at school – wasn't a positive one. Hopefully through the Active Spaces programme, more women will see the positive empowering aspects of sport and physical activity and start to influence their children, creating real progress in terms of more women and girls participating in sport.
My daughter, aged nine, wants to be a professional footballer and then when she retires a sports presenter. My hope for her is that the opportunities and pathways are there for her to be the best that she can be, and with role models such as Alex Scott and Reshmin Chowdhury, I'm confident many more young girls will look up to them and aspire to do the same.
Angela Lewis is Fields in Trust Head of Programmes and Development Manager for Central England. She can be contacted by any of the below means.
t: 020 7427 2111
Angela Lewis is Fields in Trust’s Head of Programmes and has a Development Manager role covering the East and West Midlands, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. She joined Fields in Trust in 2011 with a focus on the QEII Fields Challenge and now leads the organisation’s work on the Centenary Fields programme. Angela has always worked in sport and leisure for a variety of organisations at national, regional and local level including Sport England and London Borough of Richmond.