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Empowering women and girls through safe and inclusive active spaces

Empowering women and girls through safe and inclusive active spaces

The first This Girl Can face-to-face event for 2024 was a resounding success. 

Titled ‘Empowering women and girls through safe and inclusive active spaces’, the evening discussed how safe someone feels plays a big role in whether they enjoy sport and physical activity, with research showing 2.4million less women enjoy sport compared to men.

The event took place at Lewes Football Club in Mountfield Road, Lewes, last night (Thursday, January 18) and saw 25 people attend the event, including local council representatives, personal trainers, sports clubs, and security experts.

Following the event, Active Sussex’s Strategic Relationship Manager for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Gemma Finlay-Gray, said: “The data around how safe women and girls feel participating in public outdoor spaces and indoor facilities, and having experienced sexual harassment or intimidation is not acceptable. 

“Women and girls deserve to get active (and enjoy it) as much as men, without having to change their behaviour.

“We need to see more safer female co-created environments, and stamp out harassment and intimidation so women and girls feel safe and included when being active in all spaces.

“It was very inspiring and insightful to hear some of the approaches being taken to address this across the county and I hope through a collective drive, change continues to happen and we see more women and girls being or remaining active in Sussex.”

The first speakers on the night were PE teacher Sarah Levett and cycle coach and This Girl Can Sussex ambassador Tess Agnew from Uckfield College Girls bikeability project.

The project’s objective was to increase the uptake of Bikeability training among teenage girls, and encourage them to try something different.

A key factor in this was looking at the barriers these girls faced to access cycling, including knowing how to cycle safely, where to cycle, having someone to cycle with and accessing bikes.

The result was incredible, with many positive stories emerging and a video created showing how much the girls enjoyed cycling.

You can watch a small snippet of their talk here

Next up was Nick Tuppen and Brooke Palmer from Threshold Sport who spoke about their Threshold Trail Series: Ultra 50:50 vision and what they are doing to encourage more women to take part in these types of events.

Initiatives include pregnancy deferral policies, breastfeeding support, toilets and sanitary products throughout the courses, merchandise that fits women correctly, equal prizes, and 

GPS trackers for those who want them.

They have also been working hard to increase the visibility of women taking part in the ultra events, improving the language and content across their communications.

A snippet of their talk is below.

This point about representative and inclusive marketing was emphasised by the next speaker, Steph McCabe, founder of Try Tag Rugby Brighton, who spoke about the importance of using images that depicted diverse women playing tag rugby and using language that emphasised the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

A video of Steph at the networking event is below.

The last speaker on the night was personal trainer and an owner of the 100% fan-owned Lewes FC, Becky Hughes.

She explained how she was not sporty as a child, with her parents describing her as someone who ‘can run, but isn’t very coordinated’. 

After trying different sports and ditching them, she found her love in strength training and moved into personal training.

She highlighted how gyms are very much set up with men in mind, whether that is the equipment designed for the male body rather than the female, to the fact many women hate exercising in front of mirrors.

She also emphasised the importance of male allies and talking to your boys – whether that is family members or friends – to help them recognise that change needs to happen to help women feel safer and more included in the sport and physical activity sector.

The This Girl Can Sussex Network has been created to inspire more women and girls to move more, and help break down the barriers that prevent so many from being physically active. 

We are particularly keen to encourage more men to join the network as male allies to help the discussion move forward.

To keep up to date with what is happening with the This Girl Can Sussex network sign up to our mailing list here.

Nick Tuppen and Brooke Palmer from Threshold Sport spoke about their Threshold Trail Series: Ultra 50:50 vision

Steph from Tag Rugby Brighton explaining how she encouraged more women to take part

Personal trainer Becky Hughes on how gyms are designed for men

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