Written by Amalia.
Everyone talks about Serena Williams and how she is one of the greatest players of all time, but many people probably did not realise that tennis used to be an exclusively white sport (if you haven’t, please watch the movie King Richard!). Her sister, Venus Williams paved that way, opening the door up for Serena, and all other black women and minorities to enter this exclusive sphere that was not accessible to them back then. Thanks to them, we have Coco Gauff, Naomi Osaka, and Leylah Fernandez now.
Thankfully, things have slowly changed. Well, at least in London. I have encountered many groups and clubs for different sports that encourage people from diverse backgrounds to take part and be active. These range from cycling, running, hiking, to climbing, you name it! You can find a group that you can identify with and these groups would usually have funding so that people who have financial barriers can take part too!
One of these groups that I encoutered is ClimbMuz, founded by Siddrah, with the mission of creating a safe and welcoming place for Muslim women and minorities to climb and encourage them to try a new sport. In September 2022, I had the opportunity to attend (and took pictures of) the biggest ClimbMuz climbing event to date. It was a surreal experience! I had never seen so many Muslim women and ethnic minorities in one climbing gym! There were close to 200 women who came to the @aldgatecitybouldering gym, which was shut exclusively for the event.
I cannot emphasise how important these inclusive groups have been to diversify sports like climbing. I cannot speak for every Muslim women here, but as a “visible” Muslim woman with a headscarf, entering a new unfamiliar space can be very intimidating. Not only because it is outside of my comfort zone, but also because I have been in the positions of being rejected and unwelcome because of what I wear. Subconsciously, that fear of rejection because of who I am always lingers at the back of my head, and this can either make or break you.
That is why I am super grateful that Siddrah approached me at my home gym @bethwall_green in June 2022 and told me to join the ClimbMuz meet-ups. Personally, these sessions have helped me to build and boost my confidence to climb, to the point that I no longer feel weird or apprehensive about entering a climbing gym on my own, alone. And that, to me is a huge win! 🙌