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Spotlight on participation for female refugees

The Welsh Refugee Council’s Women Get Active project is a 12 month pilot programme for female asylum seekers and refugees.

The Welsh Refugee Council’s Women Get Active project is a 12 month pilot programme for female asylum seekers and refugees that aims to:

  • Increase fitness and wellbeing through the delivery of a specialist exercise programme to 32 women in Cardiff
  • Increase participation in sports of asylum seekers and refugees in Wales through building links with organisations like Sports Cardiff as well as local sports clubs
  • Increase understanding of the barriers that female asylum seekers and refugees face to access sport

Participants are women who typically have been excluded from or unable to access physical exercise either for cultural, economic, or religious reasons.

The programme includes offering three one-hour exercise sessions a week, to two different groups. The participants are offered basic diet and nutritional information, and are encouraged to participate in additional fitness activities. To encourage participation, the programme includes a transport reimbursement scheme, and free crèche facilities.

Those who are interested in being champions for their respective communities are being supported, coached and trained to become accredited either as a Sports Leader or Sports Coach.

Every four weeks, the programme collects data to measure physical and mental wellbeing of the participants, including

  • Body measurements
  • Physical fitness measurements
  • Qualitative measures to indicate general wellbeing
  • Number of participants for events, classes and public sports events

So far the results have been very encouraging. The number of participants have far outstripped the predictions for the programme, with 36 women having completed one round of testing. Referrals have come from Oasis, the Stay and Play toddler group, and the Cardiff Health Access Practice Service, as well as from word of mouth recommendations.

On sign-up, none of the participants reported playing any form of sport, and 75% reported not being currently active. All participants have said that they have seen definite improvements in both their fitness levels and body shape, and are now very keen to do more exercise, try new activities, and learn more about diet and nutrition.

A considerable number of the participants are taking anti-depressants and/or sleeping tablets, but since exercising with the programme, the women have said that they have noticed a reduction in their depressive symptoms, with several approaching their doctors to reduce their medical dosage.

The programme has allowed the participants to make new friends and connections, both with the project coordinator, and each other.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with all aspects of the feedback forms being rated as excellent or very good.

Andree Morgan Andrews of the Welsh Refugee Council, said “Women Get Active is an excellent example of a programme utilising innovative ideas and collaboration between partners to achieve targets. It is very encouraging to see so many referrals from different organisations, and we are so grateful to the support we’ve had from YMCA Plasnewydd Community Centre.

“These women are among the hardest to engage with on matters of sport, fitness and health. When we were putting this programme together, we tried to include measures to combat the different challenges, such as the travel cost, and providing free crèche places, as well as changing perceptions of exercise and importance of diet and nutrition.

“We have also tried to learn lessons during this first quarter of the programme, to continually improve the service, and encourage continued and further attendance. The fantastic feedback speaks for itself. This pilot has made a huge difference to these women, both in terms of improving their physical and mental health, as well as helping them to integrate into their new communities, and make new friends. I hope that we are able to continue and expand this project, to help and support even more refugees in Wales.”

The Objectives

This story supports the following 2026 objectives:

Get 75% of young people and young adults hooked on sport

Get 75% of young people and young adults hooked on sport

Positively target the participation gap within inequality

Positively target the participation gap within inequality