Changing the game for girls: Urdd’s mission to stop generation of females from giving up on sports

With new research showing a real danger that a generation of women will drop out of recreational sport, Wales’ largest youth organisation Urdd Gobaith Cymru, with the support of Sport Wales, is launching a nationwide project called #FelMerch to tackle the problem.

The Urdd aims to ensure that every young woman in Wales is offered the chance to participate in recreational sport, whatever their sporting ability or background. The #FelMerch project will provide support to young women as they navigate their way back to participating in activities, post-Covid and to the future.

According to new research by Always more than half (55%) of teenage girls do not keep active, and three quarters (75%) feel more support is needed to keep them in sport. Recent research by Sport Wales into the nation’s activity habits and behaviours also show that the pandemic appears to have widened inequalities in sport participation across gender and socio-economic status. Women were more likely to report doing less sport than they did before Covid-19, feel guilty about not exercising more, and were more worried about leaving the house to exercise.

The main aim of #FelMerch is to inspire, support and empower girls and young women between the ages of 14 and 25 to become active through sport within a safe and welcoming environment. The #FelMerch project aims to break the barriers for female participation in sport by:

  • Arranging weekly face-to-face or digital activities.
  • Establishing regional and national forums for women and girls.
  • Using ambassadors to inspire others, including national ambassadors such as Wales and Bristol fly-half Elinor Snowsill.
  • Providing a leadership training programme for girls.
  • Offering holiday activity HUBS for young women and girls.
  • Arranging a national workshop-based conference to share achievements and ideas.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip, Dawn Bowden MS, welcomes the announcement:

“I recognise that more needs to be done to close the sport and physical activity participation gaps between males and females, and to focus on providing more good quality opportunities for girls and young women to take part in sport. I’m delighted to support Urdd Gobaith Cymru’s project “#FelMerch”; it will have an important part to play in encouraging participation in sporting activity, regardless of ability, and in creating safe environments in which to do so.”

Siân Lewis, Chief Executive of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, says: “Being active and participating in sport improves mental as well as physical health, raises confidence and self-esteem, and can also lead to educational attainment. We are therefore determined to ensure that Welsh women and girls are offered more opportunities within their communities to participate in sport and physical activity, in safe and accessible spaces.”

Sarah Powell, Sport Wales Chief Executive, adds: “Making exercise and sport appealing to women and girls, as well as understanding any barriers to participation, continues to be a key priority for us. We’ll be supporting our partner’s efforts to build on the good progress that was being made pre-pandemic to think creatively when developing high quality opportunities for women and girls to enjoy.  

“It’s only natural that some people will be a little anxious about going back to activities alongside others, so I’d like to reassure anyone who feels concerned that a huge amount of work has gone into making activities safe and welcoming. More than 1,000 sports clubs and organisations across Wales have benefited from funding during the last year to help them make adaptations and introduce a range of measures to keep you safe.”

#FelMerch will be launched on Thursday the 17th of June 2021 at Sport Wales National Centre in the company of Dawn Bowden MS, Siân Lewis, Sarah Powell, and Elinor Snowsill.