Badminton Scotland and Amina – The Muslim Women’s Resource Centre (MWRC) are working together to help remove barriers to sport for a group of women from ethnically diverse backgrounds in Dundee. As a result some in the group are seeing the benefits of sport for the first time in many years.
Amina is recognised for its pioneering approach to addressing key issues and the needs of Muslim women and other women from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
The organisation is a national hub for gaining access to, and consulting with marginalised voices across Scotland. The organisation has tailored services to meet the particular needs of women from ethnically diverse backgrounds to ensure that they are able to fully participate in society without fear of discrimination or inequality.
By chance Khadija Hussein, Creative Wellbeing Project Officer for the organisation, attended a badminton taster session hosted by Badminton Scotland Regional Development Officer, Jane Russell.
Impressed by the session and keen to expand the sport offering for the women at the Amina MWRC in Dundee, Khadija called Jane to invite her to deliver a two-day taster session for the group.
For the women in the group, and many other women from ethnically diverse backgrounds, significant barriers exist which mean they typically don’t participate in sport or struggle to participate regularly. Many of the women are refugees so cost is an issue as is clothing. The sessions were free and the courts sectioned off, staff at the sports centre where they played were made aware that the session was female only. Male staff were vigilant not to interrupt in case any of the women weren’t wearing a headscarf.
The response was extremely positive. Ages ranged from age 30 up to late 60s, some hadn’t played badminton since their school days. As a result, some of the women had low confidence about taking part in sport. But the measures put in place to help them feel comfortable and at ease has helped to build confidence, as a result thee group now play badminton every week and Khadija is aiming to introduce other sports to the group.
She said: “We had 22 women going through a two-day training session, ages ranged from 30 up women in their late 60s.
“Some hadn’t held a racket for 15-20 years or since they were at school, so up to 30 years.
“The majority of the women would’ve been inactive. A lot of Muslim women prefer to attend women only activities where they cover their hair or have to wear certain clothing. A lot of the activities they are looking for are segregated which is not readily available in most sports centres and gyms. So there really isn’t much for them unless they are going out for a walk.
“When we have a female only session we let the staff in the sport centre know, the male staff are then vigilant and don’t come into where we are in case any of the women aren’t wearing a headscarf at the time. Things like that has allowed them to use the courts comfortably and they’ve been able to build confidence as a result.
“This was a bit of a pilot. We’re looking at expanding the number of sports we can offer, so seeing how well this has worked and seeing women in the group go from being inactive and lacking a bit of confidence to taking part regularly has shown us we are on the right track.”
Jane Russell added: “Badminton Scotland are keen to engage with groups in the third sector and we believe everyone has the right to play badminton.
“Women from ethnically diverse backgrounds often suffer more from lack of opportunities to exercise. Working with the group from Amina made me realise turning up to play badminton is a big thing for them. We had to make sure the hall was screened off and no men were allowed to enter the hall or look in when the women were playing. These are all things I had never considered before. Many of them were from countries where women are second class citizens.
“Most of the women hadn’t done that much exercise before but they all got a buzz out of playing badminton. The other great thing was they didn’t all know each other when they started but they made new friends and contacts.”