Translation in English of the excerpt from the article published by Svenska Yle: Idrott aktiverar invandrare också utanför sportplanen – och förändrar attityder, journalist Janne Isaksson.
"Activating passive women
Immigrant women are clearly less likely to participate in sports than men. The NGO, Monaliiku offers multicultural women the opportunity to test and practice sports. The threshold for participating should be as low as possible in order to attract passivated immigrant women, as well.
- For many, it has been very important to have the opportunity to move at all like for example, mothers with small children who can easily passivate and end up out of the society. Here they come outside the home and meet other people, says project coordinator Kati Vertiö.
- Here they have had the opportunity to create new contacts and get support from others who have been through similar things. I see sports as a neutral plan where it is easy to come, and where you also feel safe to open yourself up about other problems and challenges.
Our activities are culture and gender sensitive, which is a prerequisite for many women with immigrant backgrounds. For example, all the instructors are women, the children are welcome and the activities are many times free of charge.
- Some do not have the opportunity to participate in other exercise groups because of their background or culture. If Muslim women wear gym clothes, it means that no men can be in the same room.
On a weekly basis, Monaliiku reaches about 300 women, most of them in Helsinki. Vertiö says that many consider the social aspect as even more important than improved fitness and thereby health.
- I see the integrative power of sport as very powerful and broad. You can bring many, different kinds of people around the same collective goals. It increases the sense of belonging and lowers walls between people, says Vertiö.
- It is extremely important for your integration that you are active in a community or association. You get a support network and a circle of friends, you develop your language skills and your understanding of society is broadened.
How important is it for the person to be active?
- It is very important, but sometimes very basic practical things can cause problems. It can be difficult to make a call or find information online if you cannot know the language or know how these systems work.
- For many, the first visit is critical. When that has happened, they know where to come, who receives them and what they are expected to do. If we get the person to come once, the activation often happens by itself, says Vertiö."