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Giorgia Brennan, ukactive’s Project Manager for Safer Spaces to Move, discusses the work taking place in partnership with Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to ensure more women and girls feel comfortable in fitness and leisure facilities.

Safer Spaces to Move is a two-year funded project in partnership with Sport England’s This Girl Can team and ukactive that looks to understand the barriers women can face when taking part in physical activity in fitness and leisure facilities.

The Safer Spaces project follows on from research we carried out in 2021 and 2022 that found that personal safety and confidence can be significant barriers for women and girls when participating in physical activity.

Using this research, we created two guides in partnership with This Girl Can that provide tangible advice and best practice guidance for fitness and leisure facilities, to help them ensure women feel comfortable in these environments and provide steps they can take to attract more women to use these spaces.

We know that these guides have been a valuable resource, with many of our members using the advice to improve their own offerings, such as providing sessions that help women to find the ‘right’ activity for them.


Building momentum

Since releasing the second guide in May 2023, we have been working hard on the project plans, and now we can reveal a little more about the details.

We have established a new dedicated project team headed up by myself, to build on the work that Hattie Jones (our Interim Director of Sector Development at ukactive) began with Sport England in 2021. Claire Edwards and Dani Ward from the This Girl Can team at Sport England joined the project team, forming yet another powerhouse partnership between our organisations.

Collectively, we recognise the importance and benefit of collaborative work, and we have been convening leading partners and bodies to ensure a strategic approach to this vital work, in particular with both the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) and our research agency, Walnut Unlimited.

A big part of this work has involved us working with our partners to develop a ‘Safer Spaces to Move’ taskforce that has been brought together to provide the necessary expertise and breadth of knowledge to steer the project and its activities forwards.


What is the Safer Spaces to Move Taskforce?

Our taskforce includes representatives from a range of leisure facilities, both public, private, and independent operators as well as experts in the field of female participation and engagement. This includes representation from Nuffield Health, PureGym, Women in Sport, Everyone Active, Places Leisure, Serco and The Gym Group and every member has been essential in providing great guidance and support for the project team.

This group reconvened in December 2023 to look at the impact of the guidance that we shared with members, what more our sector can do to play its part in tackling the broader societal issues of intimidation and harassment, and how we can push the agenda forward. The group met for the second time earlier this month, after ukactive’s Active Uprising conference where the project was presented to the wider sector.


What’s next for the Safer Spaces to Move project?

Supported by our amazing taskforce, we have plans to launch a pilot project in partnership with two ukactive member organisations, across several facilities, that will introduce a recognised scheme into the sector to address and tackle incidents of sexual harassment and intimidation. We will be launching this pilot very shortly and it’s something we hope to broaden out to a national level later this year

We’ve set our sights on becoming industry leaders in this space and really driving positive change for women and girls using gyms and leisure facilities.

As we head into 2024, momentum is building and alongside the pilot, we’ve been working on our Safer Spaces to Move Hub which is intended to be a one-stop shop for anyone in the gym and leisure facility sector to learn, upskill and keep up to date with the latest progress, research findings and resources. This hub will evolve as the project grows and new resources become available.

There are many more exciting plans and activities in the pipeline for Safer Spaces to Move, and we’re looking forward to supporting the sector to welcome more women and girls into our facilities and ensuring that they can experience all the fulfilling benefits the sector has to offer.

To find out more about Safer Spaces to Move click here