Tackling Inequalities Project and helping women from diverse ethnic backgrounds to feel confident, fit and healthy.
- A blog for West Cumbria Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) Group
- By Kay Dempsey, Groundwork Northeast and Cumbria
With encouragement from West Cumbria Refugee Support Network volunteers Abigail Mann and Kelly Davis, I was asked to explore whether there was any funding available to support women from different cultural backgrounds who were attempting to settle into life in West Cumbria. Concern had been expressed that some families were leaving the area, and it was acknowledged that, although their basic needs (including accommodation, education and healthcare) were being met, they had not felt safe and comfortable here.
I reflected at the time how very strange it must feel moving to an area where you don’t speak the language, and there are different rules and many cultural differences. However, I was delighted that the women I spoke to, from countries such as Sri Lanka, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, were keen to find ways to explore self-care and options for keeping healthy and physically fit. At the same time, it was clear that they would need to carefully introduce any change of behaviour or daily routines in line with their religious and cultural beliefs.
We applied, through Active Cumbria, for funding from Sport England, through the Tackling Inequalities Fund, and were pleased to be accepted to provide two six-week programmes in West Cumbria for 12 women. The first programme started in April 2021 in Workington and we will soon be starting a second programme in Whitehaven. We are already oversubscribed. We have been able to spend the grant on the specialist female trainers, translations, workbooks and vouchers. The participants are mainly mothers with children of varying ages. Mothers who have given birth recently can attend too. The MVP has helped to promote the course and is keen to engage with the women attending.
Launching the programme was not without its difficulties. Firstly, we had Covid restrictions, then Ramadan, plus working around childcare and educational commitments. There were also decisions about what to wear for the sessions, which included a combination of exercise and group discussions. At our first session we were able to laugh with our Moroccan/Spanish participant who had chosen her best skirt suit for the occasion! With women, where there’s a will there’s always a way, and she was loaned a scarf so she could continue.
So far, we have explored body image and we followed this with a discussion on self-esteem. As many of the attendees have been fasting during the day, due to Ramadan, we have kept exercise light. However, requests are coming in for the opportunity to ……….. dance ………… swim ………. go to the gym and generally make exercise as much fun as possible.
The facilitator, Sam Joughin from Together We, has been encouraging participants to share how they feel when their self-esteem is good. Here are a few of the comments:
“I am strong”
“I can trust people”
“I feel happy”
Over the coming weeks, we are going to explore the impact of social media on body image, self-care and relationships. We are also going to visit a gym, eat healthy food and plan future opportunities to keep healthy. And most of all, we are going to have fun!