Gayle Pink, Archery GB’s Head of Participation, and Arran Coggan, Director of Participation, attended an event at the House of Commons as part of the Muslimah Sports Association’s Muslim Women in Sports Report launch. As part of their strategy for growth across London and England, the MSA conducted a survey to understand British Muslim women’s current sporting activities, sports they are interested in and their motivations for taking part.
We look at the MSA's Muslim Women in Sport Report to see how Archery GB and Project Rimaya are helping to address the barriers and concerns faced by British Muslim women in sport.
Archery has a long and rich history in Islam, and the sport is helping Muslim communities to feel inspired and united, supporting their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. It is considered a “sunnah” sport, a sport which is recommended in Islamic teachings. The Prophet Mohammed said, “Everyone who walks between the two points of the archery field will have merited the reward of a good deed for every step he takes.” Project Rimaya was developed with funding from SportsAid to target Muslim communities, women and girls in particular, to increase access to a sport which is significant to them.
Maryam Manjothi from Leicester Archery Academy said: “Archery supports my faith as I am a Muslim and archery is a sunnah (something which is advised and heavily rewarded) especially for women.”
We are helping to train Muslim women to become not just instructors and coaches, but positive role models within their community in the hope that this helps to encourage other Muslim women to take part in the sport. So far, we have helped to train over 20 female Instructors and 10 Session Coaches. In Blackburn our partnerships with Active Lancashire and Together an Active Future allows us to train more Muslim women as instructors within the community so that they can then offer those in their local areas and communities a chance to try and progress in archery too.
Archery has minimal dress requirements, making it more accessible and inclusive to people interested in trying the sport. By running courses and sessions in madrassahs and other community spaces that are familiar to the Muslim community, Project Rimaya and its partners are trying to reduce the anxiety around participating in sport.
Archery has many benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. Members of our community extoll the mental health benefits of archery, especially in a post-Covid society. Maryam, who trains at Leicester Archery Academy, said “For me, archery is time out to quite literally release the stress of having to meet certain standards or achieve certain goals, with each arrow”.
Last year we worked with the Sport & Recreation Alliance to assess the social ‘impact’ and ‘value’ of our Rimaya partnership in Barking. The analysis showed significant value in the sessions, both in economic terms and in the social benefits that they bring to participants. Economically, the research demonstrated that the six-week programme produced £95,000 of social value. The cost of the project was just over £4,000, giving a potential return of investment at 28 times the cost of delivery.
There was also a marked increase in overall life satisfaction and decrease in anxiety, as expressed by the participants, who also noted the benefits that archery as a sport brought to them in their wider lives: “I think it has improved my wellbeing. It has helped me meet new people, socialise, and network in this community”, and “Aiming at the target and the feeling of relaxing has really helped – the focus has really transferred to work in being able to get into a state a calm”.
Through Project Rimaya and with a number of our partners, we are delivering both women-only and mixed sessions as a way to increase participation within the community.
As part of the impact from the Birmingham 2022 Legacy Fund, Jamila Bi, Archery GB’s Legacy Coordinator, is running women-only sessions at Crescent Archers in Birmingham, as are the team at Rimaya Dewsbury, and Muslimah Sports Association have also been running regular female-only archery classes. These sessions help us to get archery into the community in a location and way that is comfortable for the participants.
If you or your club are interested in engaging with ethnically diverse communities, then the report will provide some useful insight. Please contact your Regional Development Officer or email@example.com if you are interested in or need support in this area.
Find out more about Project Rimaya