This week, a diverse group of Colchester women are celebrating. On 5 December, Active Essex in partnership with Colchester Citizens will be offering the first truly women-only swim sessions at Leisure World Colchester. With modesty screening, all- female lifeguards and female spectators only, the pilot sessions will run on the first Wednesday of each month during term-time, between 6:30pm to 8pm, with up to two children (boys aged under 11 and girls aged 0-15) allowed in free with each paying woman.
Swimming is something a lot of us take for granted, but for a surprisingly large group of women the presence of men as lifeguards, fellow swimmers and spectators makes it difficult or impossible. When Colchester Citizens Alliance began forming, some of its listeners in the community met women wanting to swim but unable due to body image issues, lack of confidence, post-operative scars, cultural or religious reasons, past traumas, anxiety or self-consciousness coming from the pressure on women to be perfect.
Supported by Colchester Citizens, an action group formed: women and men from Essex University, Colchester Sixth Form College and Colchester Institute, plus Colchester Mosque, African Families In The UK, Colchester Foodbank and Colchester Churches. The group campaigned to raise awareness of swimming amongst its members, councillors and pools in the local area.
Leisure World Colchester set up a series of meetings with Colchester Citizens and Active Essex and this led to the pilot sessions being set up, part funded by Active Essex and Livewell. To find out if the demand is there to run them more regularly, ten sessions will run initially (term time only).
Rev. Caroline Beckett, currently chairing the developing Colchester Citizens Alliance, is delighted with the news:
“We are really pleased to be working with Leisure World to run the pilot sessions. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the women we represent to gain the opportunity to be fit and active, connect with each other and learn a vital life skill. We have been working closely with Leisure World for several months to make this possible and it has required adjustments on both sides. Now it’s up to Colchester’s women to use it or lose it!”, she said.
Hayley Chapman, Active Essex Relationship Manager for North Essex said:
“We are very pleased to have been a part of the action group and to have supported Leisure World Colchester in trialling and launching these women-only swim sessions. Active Essex is committed to supporting the creation of accessible sport and physical activity opportunities and helping people who may face additional barriers to get active. We hope that the sessions will encourage women of all backgrounds to participate.”
This is the first of many campaigns by Colchester Citizens Alliance and for Hasina Uddin, leader of the action group, it has been a learning curve. “This is exactly what Citizens is about, it’s not just one group but a collaboration of groups that are of different cultures, religions and ethnicities. The Bangladeshi women’s group began this as one organisation but the impact was far greater after joining Citizens. I feel so proud to have been a part of this campaign which has empowered me to do more for my community and other communities who may be struggling with issues.”
Cllr Nick Barlow, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Commercial Services, said:
“We regularly engage with community groups, and sometimes we are asked to make specific adjustments to assist the individuals they represent. We are always happy to consider such requests and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work with Active Essex and Colchester Citizens to set up these bookings in the Leisure Pool, which complement our existing ladies only sessions in the Fitness Pool.
“The Council is committed to improving the health of Colchester’s residents and ensuring as many people as possible continue to use and benefit from the fantastic facilities Leisure World has on offer and complements our Livewell campaign.”
These pilot sessions are open to women to attend, you do not need to be a member of Colchester Citizens. Each session is £6 per adult, boys aged under 11 and girls aged 0-15 swim for free. For more details visit www.colchesterleisureworld.co.uk/go/femaleswim
If you are interested in this or any other Colchester Citizens campaigns, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was submitted to the Colchester Herald by Rev. Caroline Beckett @Apprentice_Rev