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The Big Sister project hits a new milestone

Girls Walking Together

As we think about our role in helping Communities by supporting health, wellbeing, and inclusion, we’re excited to recognise yet another milestone for the Big Sister project.

In partnership with Places LeisureWomen In Sport, and Hey Girls, since May 2022, we’ve helped 3,250 girls aged 9 to 15 get active at their local Places Leisure centre while building confidence.

What is the Big Sister Project?

Alongside Women in Sport and social enterprise Hey Girls, we launched the Big Sister project last year, establishing a network of ‘Big Sisters’ who empower and enable teenage girls to enjoy sport during puberty.

The Big Sisters have since been recruited from sport, school, and community organisations across England to put an end to out-dated advice and help keep young girls healthy and active during their school years.

Girls who have now signed up for the initiative benefit from three months free membership at one of the region’s Places Leisure centres. There, they are offered unlimited gym and swim sessions, free workout classes, and free, reusable period products. All participants have also been given free access to the Places Leisure Locker App which includes a dedicated Big Sister channel, meaning the young girls have advice to hand 24/7.

Since its launch, Big Sister has engaged and spoken engaged with over 14,000 girls nationwide to further shape its services. The new milestone shows that 3,250 of them have formally moved forward with the initiative, joining their local Places Leisure centre, and undertaking fitness classes that are giving them a renewed confidence to take part in sport.  

Breaking down barriers 

Sarah Roberts, Head of Fitness and Healthy Communities at Places Leisure said: “We are delighted to have crossed this threshold, helping more than 3,250 young girls across England."

“Working together with our partners at Women in Sport and Hey Girls, we have made it our mission to reach out to this hard-to-reach age group, breaking down the deep-seated barriers that teenage girls face in leading healthy, happy, and active lives – be that affordability, body confidence, managing periods or worrying about safety or harassment."

“Our project offering has been shaped by our young participants and we have engaged with thousands of girls across the region to ensure we can combat their fears and right out-dated myths regarding puberty; direct feedback from young girls range from worries about the pain of periods, their ability to exercise while on their period, their knowledge of sports bras – even their fears of being ridiculed for playing sport."

Sarah continued, “Places Leisure and our partners have countered this with a brilliant and supportive network of ‘Big Sisters’ – these are approachable mentors on whom local girls can now depend. We have fostered connections between them, as well as making exercise affordable by giving young girls free access to our facilities and of course the period products they need.”

Being comfortable in your own skin.

We spoke to Ellen, a 19-year-old Big Sister Peer Mentor who is passionate about supporting other girls throughout their puberty journey. 

“Puberty is tough for everyone, even girls who you presume ‘have got off lightly’ are going through their own difficulties. I wish I had the confidence to start exercising at a younger age. I only recently found the type of exercise for me, the one I enjoyed, where I got most sweaty and when I would finish my session on such a high and with a feeling of invincibility.

“I became confident in my ability about what I can do and stopped comparing myself to others. I also feel better about myself, I have way more energy and feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. We are so lucky to now live in a world where there are so many options for everybody so no matter what your ability is, there will be something out there for you and Big Sister can help you discover your journey.”

Living a happy and active lifestyle.

Kate Smith, Co-Founder and Director at Hey Girls concluded: "All of us at Hey Girls are so proud to take part in the Big Sister Project and ensure periods don't stop young people from living a happy and active lifestyle."

"To have now helped more than 3,250 people through the project is a great feeling – and we look forward to continuing our work with our partners Women in Sport and Places for People to provide the much needed support that young people need to live a healthy life.”

Watch the video below for a recap of the project’s success over the last year!