New female only swim sessions and lessons are proving a hit at Coventry’s Centre AT7.
CV Life, the organisation which runs the venue, believes swimming should be accessible to everyone.
However, due to a number of reasons, be they cultural or otherwise, some women feel much more comfortable exercising or being taught to swim in environments that feel safer.
CV Life’s Nicola George, who has helped put the programme together, said: “We hope by holding these female-only bases sessions more and more women will feel they are able to come along and be at ease in the water.
“Obviously the nature of swimming often means wearing less which can make some women feel vulnerable – particularly if others swimming are male or if the lifeguard or instructor is a man.
“Some women might have been put off swimming in the past as they did not feel comfortable – so we really hope that now AT7 will be somewhere women will come if they are looking at getting back into swimming or learning to do so for the first time.
“The sessions are open for all women and we want to see as many as possible, so I’m really encouraging all ladies interested in getting involved to come along.”
The sessions, which started last month, are being led by women from the local community, many of whom only learned to swim themselves last year following a community outreach programme from CV Life, GoFoleshill and Positive Youth Foundation (PYF).
Due to religious reasons, women from Muslim communities are not permitted to swim in the company of men.
With a general lack of female swim teachers and lifeguards, this meant local pools have often been inaccessible for some people from the community.
So in partnership with PYF, CV Life made swimming lessons specifically tailored so women could swim in a suitable environment.
Once given access to the pool, these ladies flourished in the water, many of them not only learning to swim, but going on to earn lifeguard and swim teacher qualifications and get jobs with CV Life.
That same group, which first entered the water last year, are now giving back to their community by leading on these weekly female only swim sessions as well as swimming classes.
Nicola added: “It’s been fantastic seeing the journey these ladies have been on.
“Just over a year ago most of them either couldn’t swim or hadn’t been in water since they were children.
“Now they are helping women in the same position they were in themselves.
“At CV Life we strongly believe sport should be accessible for all, so the fact there were women living around AT7 who couldn’t use the pool was not acceptable.
“Now with these sessions we hope all women, regardless of their background, will have the option to swim in surroundings they are comfortable in.
Mina is one of the group who started swimming last year and is now a qualified lifeguard.
She said: “Swimming is a passion. To me, swimming is personal ‘me’ time. After a long day of doing housework, looking after my kids and husband it’s great to get away from everything else.
“It has had a huge impact on so many women in the community regardless of faith. It keeps you active, even if for many it is outside of their comfort zone.”
Mina added: “One of the ladies at the session came to me and said she feels so much more at ease in the female only sessions – having previously attended mixed public sessions she had felt uncomfortable and left not feeling good about herself.
“It means so much to me that these sessions are being facilitated by CV Life and PYF. I feel valued and not stereotyped. It’s been an amazing opportunity, one which I hadn’t expected. When I tell people I am a lifeguard they do a double take- so many people can’t believe it.
“CV Life and PYF putting so much trust and financing into getting these sessions up and running is fantastic, especially as they didn’t know if it would work – but there are so many people in the community that wanted to swim, but didn’t have the right conditions in which to do so. Now they do.
The sessions are also having an impact on the children of those women taking part.
Mina explained: “My daughter is 17 and she said to me out of the blue ‘I want to be a lifeguard like you’. So we’re also acting as role models to the younger generation and making swimming seem like a normal thing when in the past people like us struggled to find suitable facilities.”
Image provided by GoFoleshill