Adventure and sport have the power to challenge social limitations and create bridges where boundaries exist, build better representation and create more opportunities for marginalised groups
We report on two inspiring adventurous initiatives on the frontline that are changing the narrative in a world where access to the great outdoors must be a birthright.
Swimming and surfing as a tool for social change
Local girls and women are hardly seen in the ocean in Sri Lanka, where traditional gender roles place women inside their homes, limiting their options to improve health, fitness and have fun. SeaSisters, a newly launched follow-up to the Arugam Bay Girls Surf Club is defying cultural expectations and empowering Sri Lankan girls and women through swimming and surfing. They create a safe space for females to enjoy the ocean and aim to change mindsets around gender roles in Sri Lanka, providing weekly swim and surf lessons, and focusing on three key areas for change: women’s empowerment, ocean safety and environmental awareness.
Co-founded by Martina Burtscher and Amanda Prifti in November 2018, SeaSisters is another inspiring and fascinating example of how surfing can create connection, address deep social issues and bring a community together. By creating a safe space for connection within traditional cultural norms, the social enterprise has already seen social barriers begin to dissolve, where fears are overcome through experiential learning and a positive relationship with the ocean environment has surfaced from the subconscious.
We recently caught up with Martina who said: “In the beginning, a lot of our girls were shy and afraid of the ocean, growing up with stories about the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004. Some went into the ocean for the first time with us – and it was amazing to see how their confidence increased wave by wave. Now, they all love spending time in the sea!”
Amanda added: “The best part of SeaSisters is seeing how the girls and women change from day one, onwards. Hesitant and often nervous, everything is new for them – stretching before getting in the pool, learning to hold their breath, doing jumping jacks during the beach warm up. Watching them giggle and feel awkward the first time, to confidently going through these activities later in the season, is so heartwarming. Trying new things, especially things that haven’t been the ‘norm’ before, increases confidence and gives these girls a different energy. You can see it in their faces, the way their smiles change and brighten over time.”
Unfortunately, SeaSisters’ big local fundraiser had to be cancelled due to recent terror attacks in the country, hampering local fundraising efforts. Combined with a lack of tourists flowing into the country as a consequence, proceeds from international fundraisers are now paramount to the success of their campaign, more info here: www.gofundme.com/f/seasisters-sri-lanka
Boarders Without Borders
Looking at outdoor recreation through a different lens can help improve the quality and development of our children, families and countries in general. GirlDreamer is an empowerment platform for millennial women of colour to do, be and achieve more.
GirlDreamer classifies ‘adventure’ as one of its main activities in its efforts to create more opportunities for women of colour. With only 12.5% of Asian women in the UK actively participating in a sport, the sector needs new, authentic role models and to move the needle on inclusion in adventure sports. With this in mind, GirlDreamer decided to crush cultural barriers and introduce longboarding to the city of Birmingham, building confidence, inclusion and representation in an area that needs it. ‘Boarders Without Borders‘, the UK’s First Women of Colour Longboarding Crew, was started in 2017 as a way to create social change. The crew’s first cohort was the subject of an award-winning short documentary film, while an ongoing Crowdfund campaign, #220by2020, aims to get 220 women of colour into adventure sports by the end of 2020; from longboarding to surfing, and snowboarding too.
Many involved in the UK’s first women of colour (BAME) longboarding crew aspire to and feel more comfortable in a public environment as a group. Their 2020 vision includes some of the following:
- Grow ‘Boarders Without Borders’ to get more girls and young women into the programme and staying active
- Launch a new boarding sport, surfing, in summer 2019
- Get 220 girls/young women into adventure sports by 2020 including the introduction of a third adventure sport in 2020 – snowboarding
- Create a national report to show the important link between our initiative and social cohesion and how others can achieve the same results through innovative community engagement
- Film part two of a documentary to focus on the wider issue of the importance of representation in our society
- Provide full media training to three women of colour to become the next generation of filmmakers to share stories and narratives often left out of society.
Watch the full version of the documentary below.
If you have come across or know of any notable movements for positive social change, please share via the links below!