- The purpose of the Waikato Wāhine Movement (WWM) was to increase the number of young female university students (18 to 24 years) interacting with being active in any way – becoming active, being more active, considering being active and/or associating positive feelings with being active. Achieved by providing more active recreation offerings across a diverse range of activities that are promoted and integrated into physical activity services across the University of Waikato. The offerings are promoted and delivered in a way that females feel safe, welcome and included allowing them to associate positive feelings with being and staying active.
In 2022, the ‘Voices of Waahine Student Survey’ was completed, a partnership between the University of Waikato and Sport Waikato. This Survey had 475 respondents and 68% of respondents stated that they want to be more active. Key recommendations were that there should be an emphasis on hauora/wellbeing within physical activity offerings to overcome the effects of personal barriers, that active recreation be the preferred method of being active, and that social opportunities be increased.
Barriers, identified in the survey were cost, time, confidence, friends not going/participating and not knowing others.
These barriers were addressed by providing the opportunities at no cost, except a minimal cost for the Adventure Series, at times selected from student feedback, and transport was provided. All activities were in groups and they focused on novice entry. A trained instructor was available, where required, who simplified the activity and the rules into manageable learning steps. The students felt confident as a safe environment was provided, for example, the Hikes were well planned and safety aspects considered so students simply needed to turn up. The promotion and messaging was critical in breaking down the barriers in demonstrating the safe environment, to focus on the intrinsic benefits such as exploring nature when hiking, rather than the physical walk.
To break down the barrier of not knowing others and to create an improved sense of belonging and connectedness for participants we ensured that there was a female leader for all activites who welcomed them on arrival and initiated conversation.
The WWM coincided with the University of Waikato Trimesters, March to the end of October 2023. We began by hosting focus groups with specific female student groups, such as the Halls of Residence, to collect more specific information about the active recreation opportunities and their delivery mode that interested the 2023 cohort of students. This engagement with students through surveys and direct contact continued throughout the WWM and outcomes modified accordingly. The main activations over the eight month period were:
• Hiking Series – entry level, single day hikes (3-4 hour walk) at various locations throughout the Waikato region
Purpose: introduce wāhine students to hiking as a leisure activity by providing transport and promoting social connection/opportunity
• Adventure Series – range of activities taking students off campus and around local providers in Hamilton: rock climbing, kayaking, pole dancing
Purpose: promote alternative activities available locally and challenge students to step outside their comfort zone
• Your Move – 45 mins mindful movement classes such as Zumba and Yoga
Purpose: provide classes and workshops based on student feedback
• Learn to Play – 30 mins introductory sport sessions for beginners, teaching rules and basic fundamentals
Purpose: reduce barriers of entry to traditional sport offered on campus, particularly drop-in sport and inter-faculty sport series
• Learn to Lift – 60-minute intro workshops exclusive to wāhine students, teaching the basics of weight-lifting
Purpose: reduce barriers of entry to the wider gym environment and give students the skills to try movements that are more challenging
Waikato Wāhine Movement (WWM) has engaged with students both physically as well as online.
Activities have been delivered in a way which appeals to the audience. Our experience shows wāhine feel more comfortable trying new activities when surrounded by other wāhine and are more likely to challenge themselves. Feedback from students shows they enjoy activities outdoors and want to explore nature. Activities in these realms have been tailored to the participant’s level of experience, providing a safe environment where they are free to explore their own abilities.
An Instagram page (@wahine.movement) was set up as one of the primary ways of communication as social media is commonly used amongst students. Information of upcoming events are posted, and many students share this with friends. With a tagline of #whatsyourmove, stories, reels and photos of the activities were shared showing a wide range of students, this content gets lots of engagement with many students sharing with their friends. Wāhine attending any activities are also encouraged to post media they may of taken and tag @wahine.movement for it to be shared to the WWM community.
WWM has given young wāhine the confidence to try new activities and removed barriers that have previously affected their experience being active. Instructors/activity leaders that make students feel welcome from the moment they arrive ensures that their entire involvement with the activity starts off positive. This continues with support and encouraging words are given to those that may be finding something challenging, resulting in participants pushing themselves to new levels. There are no expectations to achieve a particular standard placed on students, just an atmosphere which encourages everyone do their best.
There has been plenty of positive feedback from attendees and the latest survey results show 100% of participants ‘really enjoyed’ their experience. WWM has also had a favourable impact on student’s social connections while studying at University of Waikato as it was “great meeting new people”, “amazing to connect with fellow women” and they enjoy “sharing fun moments together”. This is notable as wāhine place a lot of importance on social connections. The WWM also assisted students with the mental demands that studying places on them, the “hike was timely, especially to get away for a day and relax when stress levels are high because of assignments”.
The WWM has provided over 250 direct participant experiences so far. Many of the students have increased their activity levels with surveys showing that they had never participated in the activities before. Some of these students have continued to engage with the activity in their own time such as doing Zumba at home with their sister, booking an exercise consultation at UniRec to further their gym knowledge after a Learn to Lift session and searching out walks in the local Hamilton area to attend. Overall 80% have said they are likely or very likely to continue the activity they partook in, in their own time.
WWM has successfully broken down the barriers that many young wāhine face including confidence. Commonly noted feedback is that the events are “friendly” and that there has been “no judgement” by both the leaders/instructors and other participants. The social aspect has also been a large focus with students mentioning it is “cool to be in a space with like minded women” and with “girls who just wanted to give things a go”.
There has been a growth in participation with students who engage in one WWM activity likely to engage in further activities. Feedback shows that wāhine are “always looking forward to the next one [activity]”. Students will often tag their friends or directly share the event via Instagram when new activities are announced.
- Commitment to Youth Engagement