Together with Women's Inclusive Team, we've co-created opportunities for young Somali women and girls to benefit from spending time by water.
Ilham Yusuf is project coordinator for Women's Inclusive Team, an organisation who advocate for equality and inclusion for Somali women, girls and their families.
Here, she shares the impact that two days of canal-based activities have had on their members.
Words by Ilham
The young ladies in the London Girls' Group were excited to go on this special trip to Islington Boat Club. It was a sunny Saturday. Some of them had participated in water activities before, however most had never been on a boat or a kayak.
Once we got there, we had to reassure a few of them that they would be safe. The worst thing that could happen to them was that they would get wet! Once the instructor had gone through the safety checks, the girls went in. One by one they got into their kayaks and paddled off onto the water.
Surprisingly, the first candidate to get onto the water was Amani, who had up to that point been saying how scared she was. Amani was brave and set the bar high. When boarding her kayak, she didn't fall in, and consequently, neither did anyone else. The instructor was impressed.
The girls paddled for a bit to get used to manoeuvring around without bumping into one another. Amani started to pick it up quickly, after struggling to begin with. Once everyone was comfortable being on the water, the instructor got the girls to play a game. It was a bit like tag, which they really enjoyed. Amani and a couple of others had to chase the rest and were amazed at how fast they were paddling.
Amani said that she loved the session, and she loved the experience. Her fear of the water had diminished. The rest of the group also enjoyed it, and all said they would definitely try something like kayaking again.
Our second trip to Islington Boat Club was also on a nice, sunny day. This time, we got to experience an educational boat trip on a narrowboat.
One of our young grant makers, Asma, had never been on a boat before. She was a bit hesitant about getting on board, but she was reassured by our staff and the skipper.
Once we had set off and were on our way towards the lock, the skipper invited two girls to steer the boat with him. Then he asked another two to volunteer to help open the lock using a windlass - a mechanism that allows the lock gate to open so the boat can enter. Once we were in, the skipper then closed the gate. The water inside the lock drained slowly, before the girls opened the gate the other end to let us out.
To action the lock gates, the girls had to walk across them to get to the other side. Some people stopped to watch and the young ladies on the boat all held their breath, watching in awe.
The boat trip was really educational and fun for all ages. The young ladies had never experienced anything like it.
During the boat ride, the girls noticed that a lot of people were waving and smiling at them. They would happily smile and wave back. “It was as if they had never seen Muslim black girls on a boat before,” said one of the girls during the trip back to our Hub in Bethnal Green.
Thanks to this project, the young ladies of the London Girls' Group have had exciting adventures along the canal.