Lockdown Level Up!

Well, what a year it has been! It started with 15 sessions live from different venues and then we were blessed with a pandemic! The pandemic meant that we had to take our sessions online for the protection of our coaches and our participants. Something that has not been done before and this changed our delivery in an instant. I call it a blessing as it allowed room for spontaneous change and adaptation which was in the end equally beneficial for our participants if not more.

The biggest project we had at the time was the ‘Laureus Sport for Good’ project which was expected to cater for the residents of Barking. This was a very exciting project as it was the first time MSA had been selected as part of Barking model city and were a grantee of Laureus. Accordingly, we named ourselves MSA Sport for Good and rolled out our sessions as per our plans. Our live sessions included football, basketball, fencing and touch rugby. In response to Covid-19, we took all our sessions online and these were offered throughout lockdown, we offered basketball, fencing, football, sports fitness, bhangra fitness, tennis, netball, boot camp and cricket. We also ran online workshops, which included Art, Therapy, Nutrition, and Mindfulness at the weekend.

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Keeping A Positive Mind During A Global Pandemic

During the last 12 months we have been thrown into a situation that was beyond belief.Something none of us could have ever anticipated or could have made up in our wildest dreams. The unimaginable; locked up at home for our safety, not allowed to go out, not allowed to see others. Not from humans or war but because of a virus none of us had the power to contain. This last year has been extremely difficult for everyone.

Here at MSA we tried to provide help and stay connected to our participants. This was done mainly online. We continued some of our usual sports activities online. We organised a Couch to 5k companion/mentoring programme to pair women up to run together and encourage each other in a safe way and when it was permissible. In addition to this we continued our Positive Minds workshops.

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Shattering the Glass Ceilings Webinar Event

International Women's day was a day to celebrate the "social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women." This year, the campaign continues to forge for a gender equality world with its theme #choosetochallenge, to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.

MSA, in association with mend, ran the "Shattering the Glass Ceilings" webinar as part of International Women's day to challenge gender stereotype by celebrating women's achievements. The goal of the webinar was to shine a light on women's achievement from our own community and increase the visibility of women's successes. This would help break down the stereotype of what a Muslim women is capable of and further open people's minds to increase inclusivity and accelerate gender equality. Our vision is to help empower more Muslim girls and women to rise up, with confidence, and continue climbing the path forged previously by others.

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MSA Celebrate World Hijab Day 2021

MSA celebrated World Hijab Day 2021 by proudly showcasing our community and achievements in sports and challenging prejudices and misconceptions some people may have about the restrictions of hijab.

This year MSA have proudly celebrated World hijab day 2021. This was first and foremost a celebration of our faith which instructs that women dress modestly so that they may be known. We wanted to show how it is from our perspective as women who wear hijab at work and when they play or deliver sports. Women from all walks of life came together to change the narrative of hijab as an oppressive tool administered by control and subjugation of women.

Proud, hijab donning professionals came forward to display their inherent pride of their hijab. We took this as an opportunity of community work, open to questions on our hijab. We all thoroughly enjoyed the day and we hope that we have contributed effectively and had a positive influence on others.


Learning To Cycle with MSA

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your team for providing me with the opportunity to gain a skill for life and tick one more thing off my bucket list.

I grew up at a time where the local community would raise an eye brow (or two) if they saw a woman cycling and because of this I wasn't allowed to have a bike as a child. I grew up always wanting to ride a bike in nature and in the city but the dream was lost in the process of learning to drive. But since having my son the desire to be able to cycle was reignited and I wanted to be able to teach him. But how could I if I didn't know how?

I was going to start learning with my son during the Easter holidays this year but then we got hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and everything was cancelled.

I started as a complete beginner and in 6 sessions I am now able to ride on the road. I didn't think this was possible. I had such a great teacher Anna Bagi as she explained everything so well. She would test me each lesson too which I needed as it's so easy to forget from one session to the next. It is very important to have a good teacher you connect with as I believe you learn better that way and I thank Anna for my progress.

I thank MSA so much for making a change in society and to prove that cycling is for everyone and it is not limited to your gender, race, age, religion etc. Cycling is a way of life that everyone should experience otherwise you have not lived!

Stay well, keep smiling and continue to do what you do, it matters!

Lots of love, Nasima Rahman (A proud cyclist) 🚴‍♂️


Couch to 5k Challenge

I've had this Couch to 5K goal for the last couple of years but I never really did anything about it apart from downloading the app!

When I saw MSA advertise the challenge, I joined out of curiosity as to how it would work as a group when everyone lives in different areas with busy schedules etc.

Although I actually never made it to a group running session, knowing that others were doing the same thing really motivated me.

There is one run that really stands out for me which was when it goes from 8 minutes in Run 2 to a full 20 minutes for Run 3 of the same week. (Sorry - a spoiler alert too late!) I was really dreading it and felt like that was going to be my exit point but alhamdulillah the sisters who had done it really encouraged me and made it seem possible and so I went for it that afternoon and alhamdulillah I ran it! That was a defining point in the journey for me as I would refer back to that run to remind myself that this was something I could achieve, inshaAllah.

To all the sisters here, may Allah SWT reward you all for the words of encouragement, support and duas that have been shared on the group. Ameen.

To the MSA team - may the goodness you bring out by organising these opportunities weigh heavy on your scale of good deeds and may Allah SWT shower His Blessings upon you all - Ameen! You are an amazing team mashaAllah and we are blessed that there are people like you around to help make our goals a reality ❤️ alhamdulillah ❤️

To all still on the journey, keep going inshaAllah you will get there and we will all be waiting to congratulate you at the (virtual) finish line inshaAllah! May Allah SWT bless our sisterhood and grant us good health and a thankful heart. Ameen.

Love and duas, Uzma


Creativity Impacting Our Wellbeing

Melany is a teacher and a lifelong volunteer. Her workshop explored creativity impacting our wellbeing, celebrating our creativity in everyday life and engaging with other creative activities to increase our sense of wellbeing.

Research indicates that taking part in creative activities help people to manage their emotions, build confidence and explore solutions to problems. A long lasting positive change can occur in a person’s mental, physical and spiritual state. The workshop gave women an opportunity to identify that they all demonstrate creativity in many ways in their day to day lives.

It also allowed them to share some of their creative work with each other. They came to the realisation that having a creative hobby had a positive impact on their wellbeing and it is something that they need to incorporate into their lives. A truly inspiring and motivating session.



How To Lead A Healthy Life

Sumaiya Kamal is a teacher and writer. She likes discussing issues related to faith and culture. She has run several sessions covering various topics relating to Muslim women and their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Some of the sessions she has done have included how to lead a healthy and holistic life through following the best of humanity, prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), how to maintain an attitude of gratitude, how we can achieve inner peace in our life.

One of her goals is to reach out to the women of her community and help them to truly appreciate their special role as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers amongst other things. She blogs at Reflections of a traveller.

You can read more content on her blog by clicking here.


Leaders Urge Action Over Representation

Sports charity leaders from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds have urged the UK’s sports administrators to take more proactive measures over representation.

Yashmin feels that specific targets should be set. “Although the lack of Black and Asian Board members is something often discussed, unless there is something more challenging like targets very little will change,” she told ConnectSport.

“Diversity of thinking, and ‘check and challenging’ within the Boardroom can only be achieved if you have members from BAME backgrounds and from all walks of life. Board diversity is absolutely required in order to tackle the systemic racism and bias that exists within sports - and this has to be led from the top down.” 

Yashmin called for more sports governing bodies to be proactive in engaging with, and listening to Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic members, staff or volunteers. “The sector needs passionate and experienced BAME individuals who have been working under the radar but can address some of the challenges the sports sector faces. It is time NGBs bring these individuals to the table and hear their voices - collectively - if we are to be serious about shifting the balance and changing perceptions.”

You can read the full article by clicking here.


Building A Life Through Ibaadah

Rahima Islam presented a session via Skype during lockdown on 'Building ourselves through ibaadah (Salah), in which she talked through the different voluntary Salah which one can perform to reap the rewards.

Rahima gave practical tips and talked about her own experiences in establishing and implementing some very rewarding Salah into our daily routines.

In particular, she emphasised the way Tahajjud can be incorporated into our daily routines and how other Salah, such as Duha, Tasbeeh and Tauba Salah can also be easily added to our lives. In this interactive session, sisters added their own input and practical tips, which was all noted.

The session was ended with sisters wanting to add more Salah into their lives and build themselves through better worship.


Hope During Calamity

Natural disasters and calamities have been hitting different parts of the world throughout human history. People have different views about them; some take them as mere events and accidents taking place by chance, while many others take them as torments and trials from the creator. Times of disaster bring uncertainty and fear. They can test us and stretch us beyond our own limits of possibility. And yet, these times—personal or collective—can also reveal a resiliency and strength unknown. When you are facing a new kind of trying time, faith can offer clarity, encouragement, reassurance and hope for the days ahead. 

The session on Hope During Calamity delivered by Dr Mahera Ruby addressed how families can focus on faith, family and health to get through and overcome this calamity by focusing primarily on the emotions such situations evoke. The session explored how individuals on a daily basis are faced by a host of new problems and difficulties, which can cause distress, and with each distress individuals dip into their inner resources and external sources of support to overcome them. Despite this, there are instances when external calamities can bring added change, anxiety and distress. An individual can consider these to be chance occurrences or mere coincidences, thus never pausing to even consider the actual cause and reason behind these calamities. However, the session further explored for a person of faith, who are momentarily stirred by this state of affairs, how can they become more reflective and turn to the creator for solace and guidance? Using COVID-19 as the current trial, the session concluded with how families can recalibrate our focus on Faith, Family and Health with guidance from Islam, looking at key verses from Quran and hadith to generate hope and a positive mindset.


Surah Yusufs Workshops

In the Holy Quran Allah SWT mentions the stories of many Prophet. There are many reasons for mentioning these stories in the Quran one of them being as Allah SWT says “There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding” – Surah Yusuf, verse 111.

Over four sessions, we learnt about Surah Yusuf and what life lessons we can take away from this Surah. Although the Surah was revealed over 1400 years ago, all the lessons are still relevant to us to this day. We went through the life story of Prophet Yusuf (AS) and took away points for us from each part of his journey. Some of these lessons were on; Dreams, Maintaining kinship, Envy and jealousy, Dealing with grief and distress, Forgiveness, Having all form of patience, Protecting ourselves, Being content with Allah SWT’s decree, Knowledge and wisdom, Recognising what causes us to get to major sins.

These were amongst many more we spoke about and discussed. Not only were these relevant to positively impact our spiritual well being but also our mental wellbeing, which one cannot deny is intertwined.


Healing Through Writing

Rahima Islam is a writer and author of fiction and non fiction books. In this Women's Positive Minds and Healthy Living Workshop session she discusses how writing is a form of therapy for her and how it allows her to express herself and her feelings in a form that she feels comfortable with. She has made writing books a positive outcome from her negative life situations. Rahima focuses on tests which she has endured and relates them to the Quran and Sunnah as well as Scientific studies. Rahima's books aim to educate people from all walks of life. Her non fiction books aim to provide comfort to those who are experiencing similar tests and her fiction books aims to educate children about modern issues correctly, rather than through curiosity. The session aimed at providing an example of therapy to those who may be going through negative situations and find ways to express themselves through a means that brings about positivity.


The 5 Ways to Wellbeing

In this session, we discussed how as women we often neglect ourselves but as women, as mothers, carers, nurturers we need to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others.

So what does wellbeing mean and how can we achieve this?

The 5 ways to well-being looks at five important ways that we can achieve a better wellbeing for ourselves. Evidence suggests there are 5 steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. If you give them a try, you may feel happier, more positive and able to get the most from life.

1. Connect – connect with the people around you / 2. Be active – you don't have to go to the gym. Take a walk, go cycling or play a game of football. / 3. Take Notice - Be more aware and mindful / 4. Keep learning - new skills can give you a sense of achievement and a new confidence. / 5. Give to others – even the smallest act can count, whether it's a smile, a thank you or a kind word. We discussed how Muslims can use the same steps to get closer to Allah and the Quran.


Realignment for Jannah

In our everyday hustle and bustle, life can get overwhelming and we can easily lose sight of what really matters for our aakhirah. In an evocative programme led by Sister Kiran Umm Talha, we get a wake up call of what our life will look back like on the Day when we face our dear Lord and Creator, Allaah, subhaana wa ta'ala.

She reminds us that our limbs will speak on that Day and invites us to cultivate mindfulness and better habits by brainstorming what we would like each one to say. Perhaps you would like your arms to share about the times they spent cooking for your neighbours. Or you'd like your nose to say it stayed out of other people's business! Whatever your goals, Sister Umm Talha lays out a guide for self-watching ourselves, spreading salaam, and becoming consistent in our remembrances of Allaah. Realign your tongue with your actions and your thoughts with your intentions as you re-envision what the rest of your life will be.


Brief history about MSA

Since its inception in 2014, MSA has continuously been thriving to encourage BAME women to get active and into sports. Over the years we have organised activities such as boxing, pilates, running, football, and Modern Arnis to name just a few. We’ve always catered for women and their specific needs, such as running mother and baby yoga classes because we understand that childcare is often a barrier for women.

As well as the 15 activities we currently run, we have also organised Positive Minds and Healthy Living workshops to promote mental wellbeing and healthy lifestyle choices. We are always open to new ideas and activities. If you have any suggestions or would like to see a particular event set up in your area, we would love to hear from you.

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