This Girl Can: Stevenage Borough Council

The Stevenage Borough Council's initiative, aligned with the This Girl Can campaign, aimed to provide accessible activities for women and girls in Stevenage.

The Stevenage Borough Council's initiative, aligned with the This Girl Can campaign, aimed to provide accessible activities for women and girls in Stevenage. Three diverse activities, Azonto Fitness, Walking Netball, and Walking Football, were organised across different areas of the town, ensuring proximity to participants' residences. The objective was twofold: to introduce participants to new activities and to eliminate barriers to participation by offering free sessions. This strategic approach not only encouraged engagement in physical activity but also created a sense of community and empowerment among women and girls, promoting overall well-being and inclusivity in Stevenage.

The challenge

With just over forty-seven thousand women residing in Stevenage (Public Health Profiles, 2021), it is crucial to note that 23 per cent of them are currently inactive, as per the Sport England Active Lives Survey 2018/19. Recognising the significance of these statistics, our initiative aims to launch 'This Girl Can in Stevenage' programme. Our objectives include boosting physical activity levels and enhance provisions for women and girls to access.

In collaboration with our Cooperative Neighborhoods Team, Stevenage Healthy Hub outreach activities, and various community pop-ups, we have gathered insights from the community. It is evident that inactivity is linked to mental health challenges. Our partners from the Healthy Stevenage Partnership have observed an uptake in instances of self-harm, low-level depression, and anxiety among teenage girls and young adults. This highlights the urgency and importance of our mission to promote physical activity and holistic well-being among women and girls in Stevenage.

The solution

Our solution involved organising affordable activities tailored to the women and girls within our community. Focusing on areas like Bedwell and Shephall, which are amongst our most deprived wards in Stevenage, we ensured that the sessions were not only easily accessible but also financially feasible for residents in these localities. Furthermore, our objective was to offer activities that could be enjoyed by people of all ages, creating meaningful connections among parents, children, and even grandparents. By providing free access to these sessions, we aimed to encourage families to support one another in embracing a more active lifestyle while also creating opportunities for social interaction and bonding.

The impact

Our initial goal was to engage two hundred women and girls in the three activities, but to our delight, six hundred participants exceeded our target by 200 per cent. Of those who participated, 63 per cent reported an increase in their physical activity levels compared to before the project. Additionally, survey results unanimously indicated that the project provided them with the necessary opportunity to be more active, increased motivation and confidence in maintaining an active lifestyle.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Two of the sessions are ongoing with a nominal fee for weekly participation and they remain consistently well attended. As a component of our new Leisure contract with Everyone Active, we have an Active Communities programme, wherein our leisure provider organises community-based activities at low-cost or free in certain instances. For instance, they have partnered with Netball England to host free walking netball sessions at the Leisure Centre. Furthermore, our Everyone Active have begun planning This Girl Can delivery for 2024.  

Lessons learned

In response to valuable feedback from the women and girls participating, there was a clear desire for extended periods of free sessions and a broader range of complimentary activities. Regrettably, despite recognising the importance of these requests, fulfilling them was unfeasible due to funding constraints.

Contact: [email protected] 

This Girl Can report

Embarking on a mission to empower women and girls through fitness and community engagement, we launched an inspiring series of sessions from March to August. Featuring Azonto Fitness, Walking Football in partnership with Stevenage Football Club Foundation, and Walking Netball in collaboration with England Netball. These sessions were offered for free for Stevenage residents. Our initial target was to attract 200 women and girls to participate, a goal that we not only met but exceeded. 

Numbers who took part
  Azonto Fitness  Walking Netball  Walking Football
Number of attendees over the 16 weeks 327 72 200


Azonto fitness Stevenage

Feedback from attendees highlighted the transformative impact of the affordability factor, enabling them to engage in more physical activity and fostering a heightened motivation to stay active. Participants appreciated the lively and interactive coaching styles, which introduced them to unconventional yet enjoyable ways of staying fit. Beyond the physical benefits, these sessions fostered a sense of community, providing participants with opportunities for social interaction and support. Additionally, by offering activities tailored specifically for women and girls, we contributed to breaking down barriers to participation and promoting inclusivity in sports. Following the initial 16-week period, both the Walking Football and Azonto Fitness sessions have continued, albeit with adjusted pricing structures, while efforts are underway to secure funding for the continuation of the Walking Netball sessions.