On a chilly Monday morning at Doncaster cycle track a group of Muslim ladies gather, the room is filled with smiles, hugs and warmth as the group catch up and chatter comfortably before putting on their cycle helmets and taking to the track. With members aged between 16 and 75, they might not be the typical group you’d expect to see peddling their way around the track, but the ‘Healthy Her’ sessions are proving life changing. Here Akeela Mohammad, the inspirational leader behind the sessions shares their story.
I set up Healthy Her as a not-for-profit organisation to create safe spaces for women from the Muslim culture to exercise, get together and share new experiences.
We’ve worked with Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust (DCLT) since I started the groups back in 2017 when the ladies first took to the water and learned to enjoy being in the pool. The women only sessions provide a space where women from our culture can enjoy swimming and being together.
With funding from various partners, we’ve learned fencing, had a go at golf and have twice weekly social gatherings where food is shared, and recipes are passed down.
Since July 2022 we’ve enjoyed cycling. My mother who is 75 and her friends who are the same age are part of our group and they have cycled for the first time in their lives!
One of the ladies, Ghazala Qasim, moved to Doncaster a year ago from Pakistan. In her home country she was very busy with work, volunteering and studying. She moved to the UK when she got married and as she has settled into life here, she has been looking for ways to get involved in the community and keep active.
Ghazala loves attending the cycling sessions and has made lots of friends and has recently volunteered to help out at the local library. She said that she enjoys being busy, meeting people and making a difference to people.
Seventy-five-year-old Majidun, ‘auntie’ as the ladies call her, has lived in Doncaster for 40 years. She straps on her helmet with an smile and gets onto a three wheeler bike at the cycle track and heads off peddling with a huge smile on her face.
It’s so heart warming to see all of these ladies of different ages and backgrounds taking part in different activities in their own city. Thanks to the group, they have visited venues that they have never before been into and are learning new skills and gaining confidence every day.
My daughter, Laila, was my inspiration for setting up the group. I wanted her to see that women from our culture can feel empowered and safe to take part in a whole range of activities and that if you put your mind to it, you can really make a difference.
For some of these ladies the group has given them a new lease of life. Some of them didn’t go out and definitely wouldn’t have gone to the local pool or stepped foot in the theatre and they wouldn’t have dreamt of learning to ride a bike.
We are so grateful to partners like DCLT and People Friendly Group for helping us to make all of this happen and we are really looking forward to seeing what else we can turn our hands to in 2023.