Community sport leaders underline how to #EmbraceEquity on International Women's Day 2023

By Sported |  8 March 2023

For International Women's Day 2023, Sported asked two of our group leaders to tell us what embracing equity means to them.

Elizabeth Ferris is a driving force at Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club


In the run up to International Womens Day 2023, I was asked a question that really made me stop and think: What was my personal route to making Dundee Dragons more inclusive to girls and women?”

I couldn’t really answer right away if Im honest! I guess for me, it seemed to all be part and parcel of the one theme.

I started the club in 2013 because there was nowhere locally for anyone with a physical disability to play wheelchair sport in a team. As a woman I wanted to play sport, and as a disabled women I needed that sport to be accessible; I didnt really think about how the club would cater specifically for women because the main focus was on accessibility.

That intersectionality, the interconnected nature of social categorisations – in my case gender and disability – wasnt something that I gave a great deal of thought to. Yet now I know it’s played a vital role in making the club what it is today.

The thought of joining a sports club could be a daunting one to the newcomer. Its always a little unnerving to enter a space where people already know each other, and already have defined roles and tasks.

So if youre a woman who has traditionally seen sport as something others” do.

And those others” are often groups of boys playing football or men playing rugby for example. It’s easy to see why the thought of joining in with a sports club could be just that, a thought that never goes any further.

If we then add a physical disability into that thought process, a whole host of new issues around self-perception crop up. Before we know it, the barriers in our heads become so much taller than any physical barriers we could ever face.

All of a sudden staying in and watching telly seems a much more inviting use of a midweek evening.

So when I take a few paces back and think about how Id feel coming into a new environment to participate in a new activity as a disabled person, I know for sure if I were to see someone like me already represented on the court it would go a long way to easing those initial anxieties.

The fact that someone like me” was also a woman would be deeply reassuring. So I do hope that my being the founder and head of the club has had that effect for some of the fabulous women in our ranks.

Elizabeth Ferris of Dundee Dragons receiving award

"As a woman I wanted to play sport, and as a disabled women I needed that sport to be accessible"

In striving to show how inclusive we are as a club, it would be easy to fall into the trap of going all out to have womenonly events, bedecked in pink ribbons and all the usual gender stereotypes. Thankfully we dont have to play to any of those tropes here at Dragons. 

Women and girls who come along can all see that our inclusivity comes from within – its right there on show all the time by our very being. 

Strong women on the court and in leadership roles within the club serve only to inspire those women coming up behind them and thats a serendipitous legacy. 

Id not thought of it until I was asked this question. But it’s one Im pretty chuffed about on this #IWD2023.

Nicola Wheten is a tower of strength at Apollos, Llanedeyrn & Pentwyn ABC in Cardiff

My name is Nicola and a few years ago, I began my journey of losing weight and becoming fitter and stronger.

At the time I was working on raising money for my nephew who has infantile scoliosis and is being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

One of the first fundraisers I organised was a charity boxing event and there was no way I was going to ask people to be a part of an event and fight in a ring, if I myself was not also going to put in the hard work. This is when I discovered the buzz of such clubs. I was being pushed to achieve goals I didn’t think were possible and I was becoming a part of a new family – a boxing family.

I wanted to share this amazing feeling far and wide so I qualified as a Level 2 Fitness Instructor and a Welsh Amateur Boxing Association coach. Not long after, I was offered the opportunity of running my own club alongside Head Coach Carl Stephens at Apollos ABC.

It is at Apollos I have been able to implement one of my dreams: of having more females becoming members of boxing clubs like ours. I want them to feel as strong as I do, not only from the training but also from having a sense of belonging and a new life purpose. 

These amazing females have since brought a different type of energy to the club with members coming from varying parts of society.

I have worked hard within Apollos to begin to level the playing fields with two aims. 

One aim was to get women through our doors, into a boxing environment and create stronger versions of themselves. The second has been to open up the opportunities and realisations within females that there are opportunities for them to also become a competitive boxer and live their chosen dreams.

I am not your typical looking fitness instructor.

I have curves and wobbly bits. 

But I know, through feedback, that this has also encouraged many women in particular to take that step out of their comfort zone and embrace all that they are and work on their areas of need with our help.

With women supporting women and the magic that creates, I have now qualified two members so far who are now part of my coaching team. And I will continue to work to empower these females whether they are coming to us to work on areas such as self-worth; self-confidence; to work on fitness and wellbeing; mental health; are domestic abuse survivors, or just to feel included in something great.

If I can help one female design a more purposeful roadmap in their life which can help create clarity of their worth in this world, then I will do so to the best of my ability.

This is dedicated to all the wonderful women in my life in particular my mum, sister and niece who find humour in most situations and live life to the full.