Our GIRL POWA initiative was created to help break down barriers and provide opportunities for young women aged 12-20 years to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. We provide a safe, supportive all-female environment, which is non-competitive and a lot of fun.
Positioning outdoor activities as definitely ‘not just for boys’, we launched in May 2023 with a multi-activity Adventure Day and a High Ropes Day. A teen attended along with a significant adult female (mum,nan, sister, friend) in their lives - who inspired and supported them. An experienced, all-female staff facilitated the days - no boys allowed.
In 2022 we launched our POWA community (Pirongia Outdoor Women’s Adventures) to provide opportunities for women to get out in the outdoors. We provided an all-female environment and a series of activities throughout the year and a Facebook community where the women could connect.
A number of our POWA women asked if they could bring their teenage daughters/whanau along with them, as they felt they would benefit from it and it would be a great opportunity for their daughters to get out and about.
We also knew from research that there is a high drop off in girls’ participation in sport and outdoor activities once they hit their teens and our own experience with teenage girls, reiterated this evidence.
As an organisation we have specialised in working with women’s groups including WOWMA, Shama, YWCA so we felt we had the networks and experience to have a go at delivering opportunities for our female rangatahi.
We knew cost was a barrier so applied for funding from the Sport New Zealand Tu Manawa fund. This meant we were able to offer a double ticket (adult and a teen) at a significantly reduced cost. By having the adult attend the girls not only got support but also transport to the venue! It also meant they didn't have to turn up alone as we knew not having someone to do activities with was also a barrier.
In May 2023 we held our inaugural GIRL POWA Adventure Day. 36 participants attended. The High Ropes Day was held in July with a further 20 participants.
We have also made a commitment to showing female rangatahi enjoying the outdoors in our social media and marketing. We had a significantly higher dropout rate in our GIRL POWA bookings than for our Women’s only events (“my daughter changed her mind”, “she didn't really want to do it”) and we accept this is a harder audience to reach and persuade.
So we have opened a TIK TOK account and have been using Instagram as a promotional tool. We are sharing news and stories about GIRL POWA in our communications with schools, local organisations and the local press. We also participated in a Recreation Aotearoa Webinar, sharing our experience with others in the outdoors industry.
We are collecting feedback - both formal and informal - at every opportunity on how we can improve and reach our target audience and are committed to wherever, whenever we can, showing our female rangatahi out there having fun.
We are developing a series of ”Learn to” and “Give it a try” activities, for which we have applied for funding and we are working towards developing the programme and GIRL POWA community with our local rangatahi to give them what THEY want HOW they want it.
Our GIRL POWA events were very successful with 93% of teens attending saying they would ‘definitely’ like to do the Adventure Day again and 100% of girls the High Ropes Day.
From our surveys we know that 77% of our participants had only experienced outdoor activities before with their school and only 20% of them regularly participated in sport or outdoor activities. So this was a new leisure activity for most of them.
GIRL POWA provides the opportunity for outdoor activities to be enjoyed outside of the school environment. By addressing cost, transport, having someone to do events with and knowing about opportunities, we are breaking down barriers. GIRL POWA shows that outdoor activities are not a ‘boy's thing’, and gives girls a non-competitive environment where they don't need to feel intimidated or embarrassed.
We are now utilising Instagram and Tik Tok accounts to appeal directly to the youth audience and hope that by sharing the GIRL POWA experiences we can help to change perceptions and get more girls to give outdoor activities a go. Wenow have experience to learn from and a good base of girls who would love to come back and adventure with us and who can provide that invaluable word-of-mouth recommendations.
“Thank you - you are an amazing team and what you are offering is extremely valuable. It has the potential to truly change a female teen’s life, experience their bodies (and strength) in a different way and feel more self assured. Thank you” Parent Feedback
Results of our post event survey showed that 87% of respondents said they thought the event was “Amazing” and the further 13% that “I liked it”.
Our participants told us:
“Upon arrival at each activity the awesome team members would give us an explanation and demo, making sure that we understood what we were about to do and I felt that we could ask if necessary without feeling silly. The confidence and enthusiasm of the well qualified staff and their knowledge of each activity gave us peace of mind and thus allowed us to feel at total ease participating.”
“Team members checked if we felt happy enough to continue once the demo was complete, before beginning. They were happy to explain further if someone wasn't 100% sure and never in a hurry, it was a very relaxed day that allowed us to challenge ourselves in an extremely safe environment and a fun atmosphere.”
“Relaxed, supportive, fun adventure day that allowed us to challenge ourselves and then gave us confidence once we succeeded in an activity. I left with a "full cup".”
100% were completely satisfied with their adventure day experience.
There was a higher drop out rate than for our regular Women’s Only events (we had 36 participants down from the original 56 booked). This shows the very real challenges of increasing participation in outdoor recreation by our female rangatahi and that there are no quick fixes.
We asked our participants what was the best thing about the events and they told us (in their words)
- Other girls
- Team spirit
- All girls/ no pressure
- Sense of achievement
- Fun, challenge
- The bonding/fun
- Encouraging team
- Everyone was supportive/nice
- Being able to do it
Our participants told us that cost, transport, having someone to do events with and knowing about opportunities were key barriers. The girls also told us that outdoor activities were seen as a boys thing, that they didn’t like competitive environments or feeling intimidated and embarrassed. We beleive our GIRL POWA events addressed these barriers
There were a lot of special moments on both event days, but our MDs tandem abseil with a very anxious but determined teen was a moving moment that another participant felt moved to comment on in her post event survey -
“the most precious moment was when a girl who seemed scared to do the abseiling came down together with Kate. I was so touched and I think this experience was possibly life changing for her. Well done Kate. You were never pushy, respected people's boundaries and at the same time encouraging. Not easy but you really managed that extremely well.”
This is exactly what we were hoping to achieve - to help girls have fun, challenge themselves and to achieve THEIR goals in a safe, friendly and supportive environment.
- Waikato District
- Commitment to Accessibility & Inclusion