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.’’

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