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Introducing Saheli Hub – the Birmingham based charity empowering women and girls in tennis

• 3 MINUTE READ

Naseem, founder and CEO of Saheli Hub, a charity founded in 1998 to encourage women and girls from underserved communities to get active, is excited to be launching a brand-new programme – Saheli Tennis, with a grant from the LTA Tennis Foundation.

Naseem was driven by statistics that show that over 50% of Birmingham’s population are from ethnically-diverse communities. Saheli Hub’s research shows that women from these communities in inner-city Birmingham want to take part in exercise, fitness, and sport but a lack of accessible, affordable, and culturally sensitive activities means they cannot participate - ultimately affecting their physical and mental health.

After running a successful pilot of the tennis programme in 2022, the sessions saw 261 women and girls take part with incredible results. The sessions will now run weekly and take participants through basic tennis skills, resulting in them having the ability to rally with a partner, and the opportunity to play matches if they want to.

One participant who took part in the pilot said, "I have watched tennis on the television before and I am so happy I get to do it in real life. I love coming here. I meet other women and we are all learning together."

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The funding from the LTA Tennis Foundation will support the programme for three years. Saheli Hub Tennis will aim to enhance the physical and mental well-being of almost 300 women and girls aged 11-65 experiencing social isolation and limited access to social and physical activity. The programme will focus on women from ethnically-diverse communities who are statistically less like to participate in physical activity and sport.

Naseem says, “I want to break down the stereotypes that ethnic-minority women and girls do not like sport. They have just not been given the opportunity, or support to try it – everyone should have the chance to benefit from the amazing impact sport has.”

The Saheli Hub team works in some of the most deprived areas in Birmingham meaning the impact will be felt where the need is highest.

Naseem wants Saheli Hub as an organisation to have the biggest impact possible, and to help achieve this the tennis sessions are completely free with no limit on how many and for how long people can attend. Naseem commented “I want to remove as many barriers as possible for our community, with cost being one of the main ones. We also deliver in local parks to help reduce travel costs as well”.

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What is wonderful about a programme like this is that you have women and girls coming together from all communities who would not normally interact with each other, and sport, in this case tennis, unites them.

Naseem went on to say, “we want to develop a pathway into the sports industry for women and girls, showing them there is a place for them. The sessions are not only designed to get the groups active, but also develop essential skills to become future tennis coaches and role models in our communities. Tennis should be for all!”

Read more about the LTA’s work to make tennis a truly gender balanced sport.

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