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25 May 2022

'I didn’t believe a young hijabi Asian girl could even play sports'

Meet Big Sister Peer Mentor Nafeesa who is helping inspire young girls to take up and stay involved in sport as they go through puberty.

Big Sister, designed by girls for girls, is a supportive and kind space to get girls to discover their journey to getting active together whilst enabling them to navigate the changes of puberty.

Research by Women In Sport says that just over a million teenage girls are disengaging from sport after primary school. Complex and deep-rooted negative beliefs around periods, body image and self-belief are affecting girls’ enjoyment of sport and exercise.

  • 50% of girls lack self-belief when taking part in sport.
  • 45% of girls don’t feel that they have the right body shape to participate in sport.
  • 7/10 girls told us that they avoid exercise when on their periods.

The new project, led by Women in Sport and supported by Places LeisurePlaces for People and Hey Girls) provides a supportive space with resources to inspire teenage girls to find and reclaim the joy of sport and exercise during puberty.

The Big Sister Project

Big Sister Peer Mentors are at the heart of the programme and share their advice for other girls. One of the peers is 19-year-old archer Nafeesa.

She has been training in archery since the age of 13 and in her last competition she became  West Midlands county champion. She also enjoys swimming, badminton and taking exercise classes such as spin. 

Nafeesa described the times she has struggled with getting involved with sport.

She said: "Issues with feeling judged based on my clothing attire. Also, the lack of diversity in sports which meant I felt like I never saw anyone who “looked like me” and therefore I didn’t believe a young hijabi Asian girl could even play sports. There’s also the cost, a lot of sports weren’t financially feasible for me. Not wearing the right type of underwear. Even though my Mum was so open and honest about stuff like this, I still felt embarrassed to ask her 'can I go and get a bra fitted because I don’t know my size'."

But she said despite the challenges, she has benefited from staying active.

"[Sport makes me feel] mentally and physically GOOD. There’s nothing quite like feeling exhausted but having that sense of accomplishment under your belt. It’s very empowering."

She offered her advice for girls going through puberty:

"Sport is about making yourself feel comfortable so wear whatever makes you feel your best! Try and keep an eye out for other girls on your team who might be feeling isolated or upset, we should strive to boost each other up. Lastly, if you’re experiencing period pain it’s TOTALLY okay to just sit out when needed or do some more low-impact exercises."

Read Nafeesa's full blog  

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