Women ask for dedicated swim time
There’s nothing more Kiwi than a dip in the pool and Porirua’s Muslim women want to jump right in.
Permanent, women-only swimming sessions have been floated in a submission to the city’s council by members of the Islamic community keen to hit the water.
It’s a way of embracing the New Zealand lifestyle while adhering to religious requirements that prevent men seeing their bodies, Esra Qatarneh said.
‘‘It’s for all women as well, any woman who is shy in her swimming costume in front of men.’’
Cannons Creek Pool had held women-only sessions in the past two years but there had not been a big take-up and they had stopped over winter, Porirua City Council recreation manager Sue Chapman said.
‘‘After a submission last week to the long-term plan, we plan to meet after Ramadan to look at dates to restart the lessons.’’
Qatarneh came to New Zealand from Jordan, which had women-only facilities but an abundance of rivers and beaches made it important for all new Kiwis to learn to swim, she said.
The women were asking for a weekly two-hour session, with female staff, from 6pm till 8pm.
It would mean Muslim women who cover everything but their hands and faces could swim and socialise with both each other and women from other backgrounds.
‘‘Some women are shy when they wear swimming costumes in front of men, so they can come too. Women might have different bodies and different shapes but they feel good with other women.’’
Porirua had a growing Syrian community and regular pool sessions would go a long way to helping them settle, she said.
‘‘The women have spoken and they all want to swim, they all like to swim.’’
English learning partners manager Jacqueline Wilton supported the submission and said it was an important step for the city.
‘‘This is not only in the case of Islamic women but also other women across the social spectrum of Porirua, who for a variety of reasons do not feel free, safe or comfortable when swimming in a mixed gender environment.’’
It would not only provide for religious requirements but cater for those who suffered with poor body image and and body damage, as well as victims of sexual abuse, she said.
President of Porirua City Multicultural Council Dai Phonevilay submitted on behalf of the Muslim women who wrote their own speeches.
‘‘It’s going to be for all women, it stemmed from the Muslim community but it’s for every woman.
‘‘One of the things that was said was if the women feel safe, their families feel safe.’’
Wellington and Hutt City both offer women-only swim sessions. A Wellington City Council spokeswoman said about 20 people went to the sessions every week. ‘‘In fact, we’re currently in the process of doing some translated educational brochures for the women-only sessions.’’