Project Descriptions and Learning Lessons
Project 1: Massari Swimming Pool Project
Organization: UISP Torino
("Italian Union of Sport for all")
The Massari Swimming Pool Project was created by UISP Torino and provides weekly swimming courses and water-based sports activities in a swimming pool exclusively reserved for women of all ages and backgrounds. The offer is exclusively for women - besides the participants, the sports instructors and the pool's staff are all also women.
UISP is a national Italian sports association that advocates for equal access to sports for all Italian residents. The Swimming Pool Initiative was launched in 2011 following the suggestions of a Moroccan woman interested in any sports activity taking place in a female-only environment.
Initially, the project intended to cater to the needs of female Muslim migrants and refugees by offering swimming courses in a sports facility screened off from the outside, where the participants could exercise in a safer space away from the public eye. However, shortly after the program's launch, many Italian women were also compelled by the idea of swimming in a female environment. For more than eleven years, a diverse community of women has been swimming together every Sunday. Italian natives, women from immigrant communities, and newly arrived refugees from kindergarten to senior age participate in the program, which consists of swimming practice and socializing events. From the beginning, Muslim women from North and Sub-Saha-ran Africa have been strongly represented among the swim-mers. However, the group is constantly expanding as many participants bring along their children or invite friends and members of their communities. In addition, new groups of refugees, recently being women from Ukraine, learn about the project through social workers or initiatives. All classes and social events are held in Italian. Whenever a new group of immigrants joins that do not speak Italian or a language that the participants understand, such as Arabic or Farsi, UISP hires a translator for a short period until the participants can understand basic instructions and communicate with each other. Participation is based on a yearly membership fee (around 100 Euro), which is covered entirely by sponsorship for those who cannot afford it. The initiative's overall aim is to promote opportunities for social participation and inclusion - for migrants and refugees as much as for the native Italian participants. Creating a safer space is the fundamental prerequisite for providing all women access to the swimming practice, as it enables a framework that allows women to exercise and socialize in a protected and familiar environment. The project consist of swimming practice, scheduled socializing events, and qualification opportunities. Only recently, UISP also starter to offer qualification opportunities for young swimmers to become swimming instructors.
Every Sunday of the week, the premises of the local sports center "Centro Polisportivo Massari", a multipurpose sports facility in Turin, are exclusively open for female participants of all age groups. The participants can join swimming courses for three levels and other water. sports such as aqua fitness and recreational water activi-ties. The swimming pool is completely shielded from the outside. There are no windows through which one could look inside. The changing rooms are away from the entrance so that the legs and feet do not show when changing. In addition, the premises of the Massari center also provide a playing ground for children, meeting areas, workshop rooms, and a vegetable and movement garden.
The participants can use the entire facility on Sundays and often stay on the premises for multiple hours with their children and befriended participants. Moreover, UISP also plans regular social activities that take place outside of the pool. The participants go on walks, have communal meals, and visit sports tournaments, such as the traditional UISP race Vivicittà in Turin. These social events have greatly enhanced the cohesion between them. For example, there is a regular lunch where the women bring their favorite dishes. Because the participants are not only from various countries but also come from different regions, even within Italy, all participants have been interested in tasting and learning about each other's food customs. Even the Italian participants are eager to present the cuisine of their respective regions to others. While men cannot join any activity that takes place during swimming time, they are welcome in all other events. Many women invite male friends and relatives like sons, brothers, or husbands, For many participants, the project has become a part of their family routine. In some cases, three generaions.
- grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter - participate in the program, Because a significant number of the participants have been a part of the project since the very beginning, an established social network and long term friendships have formed between the swimmers and their families. Some wormed over live together in the same apartment and other young swimmers attend the same school. Over the years, the participants have buil a strong community inside and outside the swimming pool. Today, communty inside and outside tommited io integolins newcomers into the group, guiding them through the pro resconners into the group, suiding vet eluge and at grants, also helping them to navigate their lives.
Building a safer space by forging relationships of trust between participants and instructors
An essential feature of the Swimming Pool Project is providing a protective environment for women of different cultural and religious backgrounds to swim together. Throughout the many years that the project has been running, the implementers have made the expertence that the development of mutual trust significantly influences the creation of a safer space. An important lesson learned was that the women's sense of comfort and safety depended not only on the (quality of) interpersonal relationships among the group. Rather, it was also affected by the level of trust the participants developed toward the instructors. It was particularly upon them to convince the participants of the sincerity of their intentions over time.
To give one of many examples, some Muslim women initially felt uncomfortable partaking in a swimming project where most participants wore skinrevealing attire. In addition to not wanting to show their skin to others, the Muslim participants felt unsure if they could trust the instructors' promise that the offer would really be exclusively for women. As a result, many wore leggings and long sleeve shirts under their bathing suits, did not change their clothes in the communal area, and preferred showering at home. In the project's beginning phases, this sometimes led to an uneasy atmosphere within the overall group as some participants felt shy and others were unsure about how to conduct themselves in an unfamiliar situation. While the project implementers could not directly intervene in the women's sense of discomfort, they provided slight modifications that catered to the needs of those who did not want to reveal their skin.
To begin with, the project implementers made individual changing cabins available. They ensured that those cabins would be completely opaque so that the participants could change in comfort without being watched by the others. Further, the swimming instructors permitted the women to leave a couple of minutes before the end of practice so they could shower by themselves. In addition, those participants who wore regular clothes under their swimsuits to cover their bodies were educated about modest options for swim gear and provided with the necessary resources to buy one, if necessary.
Over the years, most participants decided to swim in bathing suits and started to shower comfortably in the communal area. While a variety of factors came together that allowed the women to develop a sense of comfort, one of the contributing aspects was that their instructors took the women's needs and clothing choices seriously. Because the Muslim participants saw that the instructors were committed to building a safer environment for all participants, they began to involve themselves actively not only in practice but also at the social events.
The most crucial factor was that the body autonomy of those participants who wear modest swimwear was respected as much as the choice to reveal one's skin.
The instructors communicated clearly with all partic-pants that it is not expected that the women would adapt their clothing choices or shower preferences over time. Instead of expecting the participants to ultimately
'open up' to the idea of wearing only a bathing suit or shower with the others, all swimmers are free to wear whatever they like (as long it is made of appropriate swimming material) and can shower either at the facilities or at home.
Fondazione CRT e CPD - Consulta per le Persone in Difficoltà - hanno unito le forze per costruire un modello di #inclusione per il futuro realmente partecipato. Con la stesura dell’Agenda si è voluto rispondere così ad una domanda strategica: cosa possiamo fare per raccogliere le sfide del territorio e raggiungere assieme obiettivi che migliorino le nostre comunità, la qualità della vita delle persone e delle famiglie, la gamma delle opportunità percorribili? Per trasformarla in azioni concrete, per segnare quei Goal, è fondamentale il gradimento, l’adesione, il supporto di tutti, proprio perché l’Agenda è uno strumento non di alcuni, ma della nostra comunità.
L’Agenda individua 6 Goal e 2 ambiti trasversali, ambiti ideali in cui ricondurre idealmente le criticità, gli obiettivi e le azioni possibili.
Nel 2022 è tempo di realizzare i progetti e le azioni che nell’Agenda sono state raccolte in modo partecipato e condiviso. Un’opportunità aperta a tutti, un percorso comune per migliorare le nostre comunità in modo inclusivo innovativo e sostenibile.
Uisp Torino ha aderito all' Agenda
Aderire all’Agenda significa innanzitutto esprimere il proprio impegno civile a favore della comunità in cui si vive, si lavora, si partecipa, per tentare, mettendoci del proprio, di migliorarla per sé e per gli altri.