Bristol Active Women Walk and Talk brings women together for walking, swimming or other outdoor activities. Community Activity Manager Wafa Suliman talks about how the group has helped women build friendships and create a community.
"All my life I’ve been a swimmer. I swam for Sudan and it’s always been my passion. During the Covid-19 pandemic when pools were shut, I met with Maggy, the Founder of Open Active Minds, and we talked about how we can engage women who felt like us – shut out or unable to do things they’d like to. That’s how we came up with the Walk and Talk.
The women are from different backgrounds and cultures from across the world and if someone’s English is not good, we’re patient with them. We can communicate in different ways: we have tea and biscuits together to show them our friendship. We never look down on one another, we’re just friends, which helps people to feel welcome.
The group decides what we do. Women connect by messaging one another to figure out their walking routes for the week and to let one another know who’s coming and who isn’t. I think the flexibility is good because the members know even if they can’t make it, others will walk and the group will be there for them next time they want to come.
The groups have helped a lot of women. One of our members is a mother of four children and she faced domestic violence from her husband. She was scared to stay inside but felt she couldn’t leave because of the pandemic. No one in the community knew what was going on with her until she started to open up on walks and tell her story. Our group leader helped her contact services to protect her and her children and she’s doing much better now.
Another women was left all the time to look after her children while her husband worked. She felt like all she did was housework and childcare without any time for herself or any time to think. She came to our walking groups and connected with the other women there who shared similar stories. That kind of outlet is so important for individual happiness, as well as building a community.
We do wild swimming now as well as walking and the exercise is great for keeping me and the members in a good mood, but more than that it’s the energy that comes from all the women – I love it. We have a really good time together.”
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