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01 Jul 2022

New initiative tackles intimidation and sexual harassment
BY Frances Marcellin

Hattie Jones, UK Active's head of consumer engagement, at Active Uprising 2022

Hattie Jones, UK Active's head of consumer engagement, at Active Uprising 2022
photo: UK Active

At UK Active’s Active Uprising event yesterday (30 June) in Birmingham, Hattie Jones, the head of consumer engagement, announced that UK Active, Sport England’s This Girl Can and CIMSPA

are teaming up to make gyms, health clubs and leisure centres safer and more inclusive for women.

Sport England also confirmed a £496,000 investment of National Lottery funding into the This Girl Can initiative that would be used to develop resources and training for operators to improve the safety of their facilities.

UK Active research has found that many women avoid exercising in facilities due to personal safety concerns and two-thirds had taken “some measure” to “protect themselves from sexual harassment”.

“Safety and harassment fears often stop women from getting active, and these fears can undermine confidence to the point that many women are reluctant to use gyms and leisure centres,” said Ali Donnelly, executive director of digital, marketing and communications at Sport England.

“Through This Girl Can we have learned a huge amount about how to help our partners make their facilities and spaces safe and welcoming for women and this investment will provide significant support to the sector to make improvements."

According to UK Active the funding will be used to onboard experts to the project, and to produce tools and training that can help staff deal with safety issues in facilities and create approaches for pre-identified problem areas, such as helping women feel less intimidated in free weights areas.

“It’s great to secure this additional investment into the fitness and leisure sector, to enable us to further support operators and providers with these very real concerns women have when entering facilities,” said Steve Scales, UK Active’s director of membership and sector development. “The work of this project will not only positively impact women and girls visiting facilities, but others too, as we continue to grow and draw people from more diverse backgrounds – becoming a fully inclusive environment for everyone to feel safe, empowered and comfortable while enjoying the benefits of being active.”

This announcement follows the publication of How to improve your services for women and girls: As told by the 51% by This Girl Can and UK Active in November 2021 which revealed how one in six women surveyed (1,030 women over the age of 16) said they avoided working out due to fear of embarrassment, intimidation or sexual harassment.

Tara Dillon, CEO for CIMSPA, said: “It’s crucial that, as a sector, we do everything we can to make sure gyms and leisure facilities are safe, welcoming and inclusive spaces for all women. This starts with training and education for the workforce; helping them to prevent, identify and deal with any instances of harassment. We are proud to be working on this important initiative alongside our partners at Sport England, This Girl Can and UK Active.”

Earlier this year UK Active and Sport England signed a five-year partnership agreement aimed at tackling inequalities within the sport and physical activity sector as part of Sport England's ten-year Uniting the Movement strategy to create more inclusive communities.



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