A consortium of three charities has been awarded £1m from the final Tampon Tax Fund to help improve confidence, wellbeing and activity levels amongst teenage girls.
The ‘Big Sister’ project, led by Women in Sport, working with Hey Girls, Places Foundation and not-for-profit leisure provider Places Leisure, aims to break down the deep seated barriers that teenage girls face in leading healthy, happy and active lives by creating a supportive network of ‘Big Sisters’.
Through its research, Women in Sport found that young women and girls, particularly those in areas of higher deprivation, face significant barriers to accessing and maintaining active lifestyles. The charity identified four key challenges: affordability, body confidence, period poverty and worry about safety or harassment.
Wendy Hawk, Head of Engagement at Women in Sport, explained: “1 in 3 young girls avoid sport and exercise because they feel self-conscious about their appearance*. There is also a lack of knowledge of how to cope with the onset of puberty with only 10% of teenage girls report wearing a sports bra for exercise – more than half have NEVER worn one**.
“Periods and period poverty further prevent girls from maintaining active 7 out of 10 girls often avoid playing sport when they have their period*** and millions of young girls avoid after-school clubs and sports because of their period.
“Action needs to be taken to give girls and young women the chance to lead happy, healthy, active lives. Which is why we developed the ‘Big Sister’ initiative and we are absolutely delighted to receive the funding from the Tampon Tax to make this brilliant idea a reality.”
The ‘Big Sister’ programme will help girls aged 9-15 in target areas feel ‘sport ready’ by recruiting a network of ‘big sisters’ – peer leaders and supporters from sport, school and community organisations. Sport leaders will be trained on the emotional and physical barriers girls face, and girls taking part in the programme will be offered free girl-focused exercise sessions, gym membership and access to the award-winning Places Locker fitness app.
There will also be free reusable period products, resource packs and a range of digital resources to help girls feel confident enough to take part in sport.
Wendy continued: “We are delighted to bring together an incredible consortium of partners to help ensure that girls and young women are no longer excluded from physical activity and sport. Together we will support more young women to be active in their own community and enable girls to support other girls at a key time in their lives.”
* Girls Active Survey, 2018
** Portsmouth University’s Research Group in Breast Health, 2018
*** Women in Sport teenage girls survey 2021