A different approach to swimming has seen girls from various community groups enjoy getting in the pool, thanks to Auckland Council’s Papatoetoe Centennial Pools. This number is now growing with the support of Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation’s (Aktive) HERA – Everyday Goddess project (HERA), which aims to empower 10-18 year old girls to be active. 

Ladies Only Night was launched at the pools in April 2010 to encourage sectors of the community that typically don’t participate in swimming to give it a try. The initiative has received a boost through HERA, which has supported local young females to also join the sessions.  

Funded by Sport New Zealand, Aktive, Auckland Council and New Zealand Community Trust (NZCT) and directed by Aktive, HERA takes a participant-led approach to engaging girls in sport and recreation in Auckland. The project team has been working with a group of Papatoetoe High school girls who have been participating in various activities from box fit to dancing. This group identified they either couldn’t swim or were not comfortable around water but would like to try water-based activities. HERA connected Centennial Pools and the students to better understand the girls’ needs and now the female only swimming activity has been extended to include these students. 

Mike Brown, Centre Manager, Papatoetoe Centennial Pools & Leisure Centre says Ladies Only Night has gone from strength to strength. 

“Our initial engagement was with the Muslim and Middle Eastern community – this has blossomed into other ethnic groups and now with Aktive’s and HERA’s support we have more young females joining in,” says Mr Brown. “The programme is proving to be a real success with participant numbers growing from 60-100 participants a week to 150-300 swimmers a week, depending on public and cultural holidays.” 

Dr Sarah Sandley, CEO, Aktive is pleased with the growth of the innovative swimming approach.  

“Papatoetoe Centennial Pools is seeing an increasing number of females from across Auckland taking part in this opportunity – a fantastic result,” says Dr Sandley. “More than1500 girls have been engaged in either formal or informal sport and recreation opportunities like Ladies Only Night through HERA – Everyday Goddess. We are excited to continue to add to this number.” 

Sandley adds: “Girls aged 10-18 years are one of Sport New Zealand’s targeted participation groups. HERA – Everyday Goddess puts the needs and interests of the girls we are trying to help to be more active at the centre – the “HERA girls” themselves shape the programme. We figure this is the best way to achieve our goal of previously sedentary girls leading a more active life.” 

Sport New Zealand data from its most recent Young People’s survey (2011) identified a much lower level of participation in sport and recreation among teenage girls than teenage boys (63.3% versus 73.8% among 11 to 14-year-olds). These figures fell to 47.8% and 61.6% to teens aged 15 to 18-years. 

Recognising and reducing the barriers to participation that young women face in undertaking sport and recreation opportunities underpins the HERA – Everyday Goddess project. It is focused on reverting the trend in drop off rates in participation and supporting girls in physical activity through various programmes including a Samoan language girls-only cricket programme run out of Papatoetoe Cricket Club or a partnership with Manaaki Fit.  

 Ladies Only Night at Papatoetoe Centennial Pools runs on Fridays 7pm to 8.30pm with a cost of $3 per person. This includes full use of all pools including spa and sauna, and a one-hour aqua Zumba class. Children up to the age of 5 years are able to enter with siblings.