Helping CALD Women Achieve Confidence In The Water

As a regular swimmer and a woman from a culturally diverse background, Ennia Jones founded ‘A Splash of Colour Swimming’ program to provide a holistic and inclusive approach to swimming lessons for women from diverse backgrounds. 

Her hope is that women from diverse backgrounds will feel safer and more confident in pools.

Swimming is an inherent part of Australian life. It is a strong reference point for social inclusion. The inability to swim can lead to social exclusion which can lead to low self-esteem, isolation, depression and anxiety and increased levels of stress. Learning to swim is not a luxury. It is a life skill because you never know when you will need it.

What was it that inspired you to come up with this amazing business concept?

A Splash of Colour Swimming is my passion project. I have always been an avid swimmer and more recently an amateur triathlete.

During my training for my first triathlon, a few of my friends expressed surprise at my training and commented on their lack of swimming ability. I conducted a poll via a Facebook group for women from culturally and linguistically diverse with over 5,000 members Australia wide – and the results were shocking and sad. Over 80% of these women could not swim or had limited ability.

I decided to influence the change I wanted to see by offering free swimming lessons for CALD women. The program is offered with the assistance of various fundraising efforts and it is modelled as a not-for-profit community program.

What impact are you hoping to make with A Splash of Colour Swimming?

My hope is that this program will help put an end to inherited generational fear of water / pools / ocean.

For most of my parents’ generation, swimming pools were heavily segregated – which meant most Black and Brown people were left to swim in rivers and lakes which were unsafe and unpatrolled and unfortunately led to drownings or myths created around bodies of water to keep children out of rivers and lakes.

This behaviour often leads to a cohort who inherit limiting generational beliefs and anxieties associated with swimming.

If nothing changes, I can see history repeating itself.

There will be another generation of CALD women and girls who will perpetuate stereotypes that swimming is not for people who look, believe or sound like them due to inherited generational beliefs and anxieties.  (social conditioning)
There is so much to be gained from being able to swim. Swimming is a great way to rehabilitate from injury, it is an effective all body exercise, great for your heart and provides stress relief.

My other hope is that this program will empower women to influence their children to consider swimming as a sport. Children are influenced by their parents / primary carers – and if they can model swimming as a safe sport – chances are the next generation of culturally diverse Australians will do as well.

I am so proud of the 20 women who are currently half way through the 12 week program. I am inspired by their courage and determination to learn something new and do something for themselves. We have women from 12 countries ranging in age from mid 20s to mid 60s.

Why do you think that CALD women face insecurities when it comes to body image and embracing swimming as a sport?

Most (not all) CALD women are modest by nature or due to upbringing, religious or cultural beliefs. There is a mistaken belief that swimming involves only wearing costumes that do not provide adequate body coverage.

Thank goodness, we live in an inclusive society with access to a wide variety of  swimwear – from swim dresses to swimming shorts and pants. There are many colourful, fashionable and modest choices for swimwear to suit everyone and their chosen level of modesty.

Another reason CALD women may face insecurity is not knowing what the “social rules” are around swimming pools. This is something my program proudly addresses as learning to swim is a holistic activity.

As a WoC founder, what were some of the toughest challenges you had to overcome in both life and in business?

I still get stares when I work out at different swimming pools. I’ve had a lifeguard stand at the end of my lane and watch me swim intently. After I did a few laps of freestyle they moved on and focused on other swimmers.

It is not easy to be consistently singled out but I choose to look at this as part of their education. It is an opportunity for them to be exposed to someone of colour who can swim and broaden their expectations of people who look like me.

I run a separate business in the wellness industry which is an area that is not common for CALD women. My experiences from growing that business have been challenging but perhaps given me the back bone to pursue my passion project without reserve and without apology.

What championed you through those adversities in life?

Human beings are more alike than different. Racism and / or discrimination is a small minded, ill informed approach to a fellow complex individual human being. I truly believe if people put effort into getting to know each other with respectful curiosity and a willingness to embrace people’s differences – we would all get along a little better.

I think my ability to embrace different cultures and open mindedness has helped me overcome those adversities. I am also quite a determined and persistent person who does not give up easily (just ask my husband).

How would you encourage WoC founders who are looking to start something and follow their passion and purpose, but are held back by fear?

Fear is the caterpillar before the butterfly. Don’t sabotage your future by giving undue respect to the perceived opinions of people who are themselves not facing their fears. Make sure you are your own best and loudest cheerleader.

Do your industry research well. Look at brands or services that are leaders in your field. Don’t copy! Find out where their gaps are and offer something with your unique spin.

Reach out and ask for assistance – and don’t be offended if someone says no. No is the next step to a yes from someone even better!  

Expressions of interest for Round Two close on 31 March 2023. Sign up online here.

Follow Ennia and Splash Of Colour Swimming

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