We’re a little late for International Women’s Day, but to mark the day we’re concentrating this month’s campaign on the ever popular ‘Women Only’ swim sessions.
Women-only Swimming Sessions
In recent years there has been a substantial increase in demand for women-only swimming sessions, especially in inner-city areas of Birmingham such as Balsall Heath. With this demand expected to continue rising, it is essential that Birmingham City Council provides appropriate facilities.
For cultural or religious reasons, a high proportion of women in the Balsall Heath area choose not to swim with men or with male lifeguards present. Some use swimming as an opportunity to socialise with other women, some feel more comfortable and less self-conscious swimming when men are not present. For others, women-only sessions provide the only opportunity for them to swim with their young children.
Moseley Road’s pool has an excellent layout for women-only swimming due to the fact that it is not open to public gaze once the pool doors are closed. The high windows offer privacy whilst the poolside dressing cubicles are ideal for the self-conscious, in contrast to new-build pools with open plan changing areas.
It can be argued that if large numbers of women cannot, or choose not, to swim in the presence of men then the closure of suitable facilities such as Moseley Road Baths will effectively exclude them from swimming. It is crucial that public services meet the needs of the community, especially when these needs have been clearly stated by the heavy demand for women-only provision.
Far from removing the women-only sessions at Moseley Road Baths, additional slots would be welcomed both by individual women and women’s groups. Many such organisations have identified healthy living as a priority, finding that swimming not only promotes exercise but is also an effective and enjoyable way for women to socialise, gain confidence and form networks that help in other areas of their lives. Women who take regular exercise are also more likely to encourage family members to follow suit.
Investing time and money in provision for women-only sessions has reaped substantial rewards. Crucially, it has proven to be a huge investment in the health and welfare of a substantial proportion of the community around Moseley Road Baths.
Given the income levels and lack of access to individual transport that exists amongst many of the community of women-only swimmers who currently use Moseley Road Baths, should the threatened closure of the building proceed it is highly unlikely that such women will readily transfer to Sparkhill Pool or find space at Small Heath Pool, where the timetable for women-only sessions is already full.
We received this e-mail from Maria explaining why swimming at Moseley Road Baths is so valuable for her:
I can speak for myself and many women who attend the women and children sessions, the pool gives local people a fantastic opportunity to keep fit. This is either free for children and a low fee for adults, which can benefit low income families as paying for it may be a barrier that could prevent them gaining a life skill. Many women i know go and are able to keep fit in a male free environment, which for many women for religious reasons is a huge factor in whether they attend or not. Without it they would probably find it really difficult to access a cheap alternative in a pleasant environment.
Also in school holidays the pool is well utillised by local children who under current proposals are very unlikely to go to the pool at Stratford Road. This in turn could lead to children potentially getting into mischief due to lack of activities in the area.
I think it would be a really bad idea to close the pool and ultimately would have an affect on the local community.
Swimming is a pleasure but also a valuable life skill and could save your life or others.