In this blog we’re excited to share information with you about the summer internship project we worked on for the past seven weeks. Our names are Molly and Helen and we are both going into our final year of studying History at Cambridge and Chemistry at Oxford respectively. One of us has family and friends in Bristol but only visited for short time before so enjoyed the chance to explore the city, and the other has lived in or near Bristol all their life. It was a wonderful place to work and be for the summer. We came up with a few questions to try and succinctly tell you about ourselves, how we got involved in Women’s Adventure Expo, and the research project we have conducted.
How did we hear about the organisation and the project?
We both applied for summer internships through an organisation called Student Hubs which runs at Oxford and Cambridge as well as other universities in the UK. The scheme is designed to link up students interested in working in the charity sector with community organisations and social enterprises, and to help them find relevant work experience. We both had to go through an interview and matching process at the end of which we were offered placements with a variety of organisations. Both of us chose to be involved with Women’s Adventure Expo without knowing each other and fortunately we got on really well and enjoyed working together!
What made us get involved with Women’s Adventure Expo?
The project summary was very motivating and we both had a desire to learn more about this area, and to work with the women involved in WAE and in the wider Bristol community. It felt like a positive and worthwhile scheme through which we could develop new skills whilst also doing something productive.
WAE has also already been working with women from ethnic minority communities who are doing incredible things so the project felt like a good opportunity to build on that work. One of the women we were inspired by was Misba Khan who gave an interview for WAE on her recent polar expedition. As a woman and mother from a British Pakistani background she states that she is determined to break barriers and stereotypes and wants to encourage ethnic communities to get more involved in outdoor activities and adventure. She is exactly the kind of role model our project needs and it’s fantastic that she has been a part of WAE. You can read her full interview here.
What was the research project we were conducting?
One of the core aims of WAE is to make outdoor activities and adventure more accessible for all women. Our project specifically focused on working with women from ethnic minority communities in Bristol to identify any perceived barriers they face and learn from their lived experiences.
Our research (apart from background reading) was qualitative and mostly involved interviews and conversations with individual women. We contacted various local organisations and community groups across Bristol and then attended events organised by those that we heard back from as a way of meeting local women, including Wellspring and Barton Hill Community Settlement.
In total we conducted 24 interviews and these were largely informal conversations with women from various backgrounds to listen to their opinions and ideas. We then uploaded our notes into our online survey form and used the data to identify common experiences and issues.
What did we find out?
Our initial research around the topic of sporting activity amongst ethnic minority groups in the UK found:
- That Women’s Adventure Expo is fulfilling a need in society by working to make the image of sport, outdoor activity and adventure less exclusive and intimidating. A 2017 Scottish Adventure study for the Sport in Society Journal found that females encounter unspoken barriers, that these barriers are potentially hindering to the participation, and that such barriers are not superficial and may require perceptions to be changed in order to be broken down.
- There is certainly a need for direct efforts to be made to improve diversity both in sport and adventure, as ethnic minority groups show consistently lower levels of participation. For example, looking generally at participation in sports, the Sporting Equals project states that Asian and Black females show reduced rates of involvement (34% & 34% respectively), compared to White British females (41%). When looking at engagement with nature and outdoor surroundings, the 2014 Sport England Report found that on average 24% of people in the BME population regularly visit the natural environment, compared to 38% of the rest of the population.
- Recurring themes of barriers faced by ethnic minority women were seen in previous research (factors such as lower incomes, lack of access to cars, cultural reasons etc.). Whilst there has been extensive research on the barriers faced by women, there has been less of a focus on the perceptions of adventure which is something we wanted to focus on.
- The women of Bristol we spoke to brought up similar barriers to participation as those found in previous research. In terms of the perceptions we found that when we asked women what word they associated with adventure, one of the most common things mentioned was children, women were involved in outdoor activities through or for their children. This suggests that rather than childcare being simply a logistical barrier in terms of time it should also be seen as a psychological one with women especially being keen to put their children’s needs over their own.
- Women also often seemed under confident in their own abilities, being quick to dismiss adventure as not for them which shows the need for positive role models from all walks of life helping to show women that adventure is accessible to everyone.
- However, many of the participants spoke of themselves as having been adventurous in the past and stated that they would like to find ways to incorporate outdoor activities and challenges into their lives. Several were currently committed to regular activities for their own health and wellbeing. The range of aptitudes and attitudes towards adventure and outdoor activities was clear, and whilst this highlights challenges for WAE it also shows there is a base of interest on which they can build.
What were the aims of the project?
Our personal aims included creating sustainable links and networks with ethnic minority groups across Bristol, to help them feel that being involved in WAE is something they can definitely do.
WAE hopes to collaborate with organisations across Bristol and build on the relationships from this project to pool resources and knowledge in order to provide the most effective awareness around, and experiences of, adventure activities for women.
If you are interested in supporting this project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Norman and Molly Hale