Well, what a year it has been! It started with 15 sessions live from different venues and then we were blessed with a pandemic! The pandemic meant that we had to take our sessions online for the protection of our coaches and our participants. Something that has not been done before and this changed our delivery in an instant. I call it a blessing as it allowed room for spontaneous change and adaptation which was in the end equally beneficial for our participants if not more. The biggest project we had at the time was the ‘Laureus Sport for Good’ project which was expected to cater for the residents of Barking. This was a very exciting project as it was the first time MSA had been selected as part of Barking model city and were a grantee of Laureus. Accordingly, we named ourselves MSA Sport for Good and rolled out our sessions as per our plans. Our live sessions included football, basketball, fencing and touch rugby. In response to Covid-19, we took all our sessions online and these were offered throughout lockdown, we offered basketball, fencing, football, sports fitness, bhangra fitness, tennis, netball, boot camp and cricket. We also ran online workshops, which included Art Therapy, Nutrition, and Mindfulness at the weekend. We received very positive feedback throughout lockdown with lots of messages of gratitude and appreciation. 90% of our participants stated they enjoyed our classes and 91% of our participants said they would recommend MSA. Throughout this time, we have witnessed some transformations in people who were quiet, but through our courses and programmes they have evolved into confident women. We ensured we kept ourselves open and ready to engage with our participants throughout a very difficult time. We listened and we signposted if and where intervention was required. Although we were not functioning at full capacity, we maintained the beneficial impact throughout lockdown by offering virtual classes.

Our online sessions not only saw our regular participants, but it spread over national and international borders and we had participants from everywhere.

We catered not only for our participants but also our coaches by ensuring we had thought of all our coaches when closing sessions and providing them with online alternatives where possible. We continued with our work and introduced fencing fitness as part of Muslim Girl’s Fence project in partnership with Maslahah and supported by British Fencing. We created our first 11 leaders through our Fencing leadership programme.

We took the plunge and took part in London Sports Couchto5k, this was very popular as gyms and other venues were closed, and this provided the perfect time to take up running. We also pushed the bar and introduced MSA Go Cycle, again due to the pandemic cycling had become popular and we wanted to offer this to our ladies so they too could enjoy cycling. Many had never been on a bike before, so this was an opportunity to fulfil a lifelong ambition. We also teamed up with the Royal Navy who delivered some online fitness sessions to a group of Home-schooling girls and the Super5 footballers.

We ended with some very exciting events which felt like rewards at the end of what was a testing time for many. We took part in International Women’s Day, where we rubbed virtual shoulders with amazing women doing extra-ordinary things in their communities. We then had the biggest reward which was to host exceedingly talented sports women on our online webinar called ‘Muslimah’s Making History’. This webinar went down a treat with fencing and boxing fans. There was nothing quite like hosting Ibtihaj Muhammed and Ruqsana Begum alongside our very own Chair Yashmin Harun! We are forever grateful to Samir Sawhney and Laureus whose ambassador is Ibtihaj Muhammed. She honoured us with her time and empowered many through her down to earth but oh so powerful aura. I am also truly grateful that my childhood school friend, Ruqsana Begum, who gave us her valuable time to inspire others to create their stories! The event attracted a sizeable crowd, and it was an evening of pure inspiration, the buzz from the evening went on for days!

We would like to again extend our gratitude to our funders and supporters: Laureus Sports for Good, Sported, London Sport, British Fencing, and the Royal Navy. Also, a special thanks to our participants, volunteers, and coaches.

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