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Muslim Girls Fence is a project collaboration between Maslaha and British Fencing. It aims to facilitate spaces at a grassroots level for Muslim girls and women to fence. The group aims to challenge assumptions and narratives relating to their gender, racial, religious, and other identities through both physical and creative methods.

Why was Muslim Girls Fence created? 

We created Muslim Girls Fence because we recognised that there was a need in sport to open the doors to more Muslim women. There has never been a lack of desire to get involved in activities like fencing, but most organisations are blind to the needs of appropriate spaces. As a Muslim myself, and coming from the Pakistani community that is labelled by many as “a hard to reach community,” I was aware first-hand of what my community needed.  

From my own experiences, my biggest challenge was overcoming my own “you can’t do this” mentally, which was a perception that I was subconsciously carrying around with me. Fencing should be suitable for all, though. Unfortunately, in many clubs, women don’t feel it meets their needs. There are numerous reasons for this, such as spaces feeling male dominated, the colour of their skin, cost of lessons or just feeling out of place. Things that are easy to change though, if you’re able to recognise them.  

Doing 'social' well

How important is the social aspect of Muslim Girls Fence? 

It’s essential. Muslim Girls Fence allows students to come and fence or just sit back and catch up with each other, talk about their days or what they may be feeling or going through. It is vital that there is that place where you can feel safe and comfortable to be yourself, and know and believe that you won’t be judged. This project aims to support every single student who has the courage to walk through the door, and step into the unknown. Here at Ladywood Leisure Centre, as soon as the students come into the building, they are met with friendly staff members, always willing to help and support new students. 

At Muslim Girls Fence we make sure everyone feels included. The group is very diverse, but we focus on what we have in common; we are woman who love to fence and spend time together.  

We build self-worth, give power to voices and most importantly, we bring communities together, to share questions and ideas, and to break the negative stereotypes that we carry on a daily basis.  

We make sure there is physical space and time, around fencing, for women to meet, have some refreshments and catch up. We see women bring their friends and family so they can spend time doing something together that makes them feel good. We love this, and setting up online social groups for our women then helps them stay connected beyond the sessions. 

We see women bring their friends and family so they can spend time doing something together that makes them feel good.

What would you say to other people thinking of starting their own group or changing something in their local areas? 

My top tip is, before developing any project or module go out and speak to the communities and ask questions around what drives them, and what they fear. You’ll get an immediate idea of where to focus your effort. Asking open questions and being prepared to really listen is key! At the end of the day, you need to get to know your members. Every city, town, and community are different and there is no set of rules that everyone can follow for how to reach your women. But that is what makes the work so special, it’s unique.  

Don’t be shy to do something different. You need to focus on creating spaces where women feel they can socialise as well as getting active. Create a community where they can form bonds with one another, so it can be the connection with one another that keeps them coming back. Whether it’s through hosting coffee mornings before/after sessions, organising days to bring in family and friends, or setting up WhatsApp group chats where they can encourage each other outside sessions. The more women can feel like sport and activity is a fun part of their life that they want to share with others, the more they will come back.  

Every change in life will come with the fear factor but believe in yourself, and most of all believe in the change you want to see in the communities to develop and unite them.