Weekly women-only sessions at Te Pou Toetoe Linwood Pool are proving a hit with up to 195 people attending each week.
They are the most popular public session at the pool, which opened its doors last October.
Community engagement during the planning stages for the pool showed strong demand for the idea so the Wednesday sessions were intended to start right from when Te Pou Toetoe opened.
“We had previously been running a women-only session at Pioneer Teach Pool but the time was limited to two hours and it was very limited access with just the single pool which wasn’t ideal for toddlers or older adults or swimmers,” Christchurch City Council Head of Recreation, Sport and Events Nigel Cox says.
“The support for the session at Te Pou Toetoe has surpassed all our expectations. We’re very happy with the numbers coming through but most of all it’s about the experiences we’re able to provide.
“Many of these women have not been able to access pools much, if at all, over their lifetimes and this opens up a whole new world for many of our regulars.
“Whether they are playing with their children, practising their swimming or relaxing in the spa the benefits of this session extend well beyond the participation statistics. It’s about providing an environment that removes barriers for women to participate.”
These may be based on cultural or religious requirements, women who may be body conscious or have low self-esteem or who simply want a place to spend time and connect with female friends, family or sports teams.
Participants cite the privacy and freedom the sessions provide as important factors behind their attendance.
Maryam Nassir has been coming for the past three months with her daughters, nine-year-old Kawser and Fatima, who is four and a half (pictured above).
“We enjoy it! There’s a lot of space for swimming for the girls and I meet many of my friends here, and my sister. It’s quite social.”
Amy Vinnelle has attended two recent sessions with her daughter. “I just think it’s a good initiative. For people who are a bit sensitive it’s nice not to have too much raucous activity around you. We like the way it’s been set up, it’s a good vibe – peaceful chaos!”
Mr Cox says water safety awareness among attendees has increased in the 18 weeks since the programme has been operating. Funding has also been secured to provide 20 weeks of swimming lessons for 25 young women and girls aged between five and 24.
Women-only sessions take place at Te Poe Toetoe Linwood Pool on Wednesdays 3 – 9:30pm every week. Women and girls welcome and boys up to and including the age of 5. For more information please visit our website.