Waterloo researcher says racialized women face barriers to participating in sports

Indi Madar says province needs to do more to boost sports and physical activity among racialized women.

Culturally appropriate options lacking when it comes to women's sports programs

Indi Madar, a master's candidate at the University of Waterloo, is researching the barriers facing racialized women when it comes to sports. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A Waterloo researcher says the Ontario government needs to do more to boost sports and physical activity among racialized women. 

Last week the province announced it would be taking new steps to promote sports among all girls and women across Ontario.

"One thing I would have liked to see in the action pan is the explicit consideration for marginalized groups," Indi Madar told The Morning Edition's Craig Norris.

Barriers 

Madar's research has identified numerous barriers facing racialized women specifically, when it comes to participating in sports.

The first major challenge is that many of the programs and general approaches to promoting women's participation in sports can often be unwelcoming to certain groups.

She says racialized women are the most underrepresented demographic in Canada when it comes to physical activity, sports and recreation but few available programmes are designed to cater to or accommodate them.

Whether it's providing women-only spaces, for example, Madar said creating culturally-appropriate programs and the right environments to host those activities are critical to bridging some of those gaps.

Lack of awareness and a difficulty accessing existing sports and recreation programs is also a problem in many of these marginalized communities.

It's not enough to just make these programs available, Madar says, but the people need to know that they exist and how they can access them.

"Definitely there's work to be done when it comes to service providers reaching out to these communities," she said.

Solutions

For Madar, addressing this problem starts with making sure that racialized people have a seat at the decision-making table. 

"We must foster [an] inclusive governance structure," she said, so that government and community organizations have a direct link to those communities.

The province also needs to tackle policies that discriminate against racialized people when it comes to issues like employment, income security, education and housing.

"Often times, you want to make that stable foundation first, before you can think of something such as sports or physical activities," she said.

Madar's research will continue into the fall, when she hopes to host focus groups with local racialized women about their physical activity levels.