Research carried out on behalf of sportscotland has shown a significant impact on the activity levels of women and girls who participated in projects supported by the Scottish Government’s Women and Girls fund.
In May 2019, the Women and Girls Fund, managed by sportscotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, was launched to provide one year’s funding for projects aimed at supporting women and girls to engage in sport and physical activity.
The £300,000 fund was open to projects led by Scottish governing bodies of sport (SGBs) or local authorities working in partnership with another organisation. Fifteen projects across Scotland received funding reaching a total of 3,268 women and girls.
Inactive to active
The evaluation report on the fund contains data gathered on physical activity levels for the women and girls involved. It demonstrates a clear shift from participants being inactive, or participating in some activity, to over half now being ‘active’. The average time spent being active increased by 23% to 217 minutes per week.
Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick, welcomed the evaluation which highlighted the impact of the fund and what more needs to be done. He said: “I am delighted that the Women and Girls Fund encouraged 3,268 women and girls across Scotland, through 15 different projects, to get involved in sport and physical activity and that 90% felt healthier as a result.
“It is important that we continue to build on our work to increase the understanding around the barriers faced by women and girls in sport.
"We need to work together to help address those issues so that everyone has the same opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity no matter their background.”
Stewart Harris, sportscotland chief executive, was also encouraged by the results of the evaluation. He added: “As we celebrate Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week, it’s encouraging to see the positive impact that this fund has had on some of hardest to reach and least active women and girls in society.
“For some, the impact literally has been life-changing. They have seen that the benefits of participation go beyond improving physical health, allowing them to develop social skills, self-confidence and transferable skills to help them progress in life.
“Partnership working, strong leadership and extensive consultation with participants have been key to the success of this project. This builds on the great work already being done through Active Girls, where women and girls are at the heart of the consultation process to drive inclusivity, and our young people are taking the lead to support and encourage their peers.”
Improving mental health
Much of the initial activity for the projects focused on developing relationships, building trust and improving wellbeing. As a result, many participants felt that activity helped improve their mental health - reducing stress, loneliness and anxiety through the combination of social and physical activity.
More than half of the projects (eight out of 15) were delivered in areas of multiple deprivation, while others targeted groups of people who might face additional barriers to accessing sport, due to wider disadvantages or social inequality. These included older women, young mothers and children who did not attend mainstream school.
Two projects ran targeted blocks of activity for minority ethnic women and women who spoke English as an additional language.
Participants in those projects reported that having a woman from an ethnic minority background leading the project provided a relatable role model and motivated them to stay engaged.
Most projects focused on direct engagement in physical activity, but a few projects also offered wider support and training such as developing bicycle maintenance or employability skills.
Jodie, who joined the women’s golf programme, was on long-term leave from work due to stress. Although she recognised that she needed time away from work, she was struggling to fill her days productively.
Due to taking part in the Women and Girls Fund project, golf is now an integral part of Jodie’s life and she has even started taking her young daughter along.
Jodie said that the improvements to her mental health had been significant, making her feel more confident, more capable and less stressed. She said: “I definitely think it’s a confidence builder. It’s the thrill you get when you go from not being able to hit a ball to seeing it flying across the green.
“I’ve got my own wee personal goals to set and now I don’t feel like I need somebody to hold my hand, but if you’d asked me six months ago, I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Key evaluation findings were:
- 53% of women who participated now ‘active’
- over 90% of participants feel healthier
- 89% of girls who took part feel confident
- 66% of the girls made new friends.
Find out more
The full evaluation and recommendations can be found on the sportscotland website.