International Women's Day Spotlight: Ayisatu Emore Idaraya Life CIC

In honour of International Women's Day Sporting Equals is spotlighting strong women in sport to share their lived experiences, highlight the intersectional barriers in addition to their accomplishments despite those barriers and advice for other women. This year's theme for International Women's Day is to #BreakTheBias, by sharing these stories, reflecting on the journies and providing insight and advice on how to engage in sport and physical activity we hope to do just that! 

Today we start with Ayisatu Emore, Director and Health Coach of our Associate Member organisation Idaraya Life CIC!

1. What is your name, age and sport you are engaged in? 
I am Ayisatu Emore, I am 32 years old and I am engaged in cycling, walking and hiking.

 2. Where did your journey in sport begin? 
I've always been a physically active woman though never consistently the fastest or strongest.

I enjoyed moving my body and relished being underestimated by those around me when it came to me physical abilities. 

I tried my hands at many sports during my adolescent years and found that I definitely had an affinity for power-driven sports and especially enjoyed kickboxing and boxing as a young adult. This enjoyment of doing and moving has eventually led to a life that involves finding several ways to move my body and enjoy what I'm able to do.

 3. What were your motivations and inspirations to be engaged in your sport/set up your sports organisation? 

I deeply feel that a big reason why health and racial inequalities continue to prevail is that racially marginalised communities have been successfully taught to see themselves as 'less than'.

This became most apparent to me just before the pandemic started and led me to start training as a Personal Trainer as I had found that being physically active was great for my mental health, resilience and confidence and I felt that I could be a visible and relatable model for other Black folk, especially women. 

With the pandemic and all the evidence of the health, gender and racial inequalities that became very public, I chose to start making a difference where I stood and offered free virtual exercise classes to friends and family as way to help them get their physical activity in while in lockdown.

I kept cycling and walking during the pandemic and found that more Black women around me were inspired and I set up Idaraya Life CIC as a way to facilitate the opportunities I could put together - especially as it meant I could get funding to support my community thus removing the financial barrier that often plagued their involvement in leisure and sports activities. 

4. As an ethnically diverse woman, what were the challenges you had to face to progress in your sport?
As the Diversity and Inclusion Officer for British Cycling Northwest, seeing the lack of diversity in cycling was disheartening but greatly motivating. I felt responsible seeing as I got the opportunity to be in 'the room' but have learnt that lack of diversity on the board is reflective of a societal struggle with inclusion.

I lack the social capital and network a lot of my counterparts have and thus getting support for racial diversity and inclusion programmes is deeply challenging though the tide is turning in our favour somewhat.

Because socio-economic barriers also exist and affect the general population having a racial focus can be detrimental when trying to garner support as the intersectional nature of the barriers faced by Black people is still quite widely misunderstood. I personally have struggled to find spaces to support the women who use our services.

I initially set up our cycling group with the bikes stored in my shed, it appears that we will soon have a storage unit for us to keep our items safe and secure for our members.

 5. What advice would you give to young girls who have aspirations to get involved in this sport?

Don't wait for a community that looks exactly like you to get involved in. If no one looks like you where you want to be, get in, start with yourself and build up from there. There are several cycling and hiking groups for people at varying levels.

I also advise getting a level 1 coaching qualification as soon as you can. You learn so much from teaching others and will be an inspiration to someone else with just a bit further than you to go on their journey. 

6. What have been your biggest successes in your sport? 
Becoming an officer and board member at British Cycling has been a massive achievement and highlight for me. In addition to this, teaching women on their 30s and 40s how to ride a bike is something that gives my heart so much joy.

I have several testimonials from people who were in negative spaces in their minds, who have now found their joy and mojo through the services they have accessed at Idaraya Life. This is a major success as Idaraya Life was set up to help people have agency over their lives. 

7. Which role models did you look up to in sport? 
I was always inspired the humility, drive and discipline of Jessica Ennis-Hill. To return after having a child is something that I found really inspiring as I've been transformed by motherhood and women like her and Serena Williams really do give me the encouragement and drive to keep doing what I love.

8. How has Sporting Equals supported you in your journey in sport? 

Sporting equals has been an outstanding support to my organisation's development. We have had some challenging times and were empathetically supported by Sporting Equals to deliver services to the Black women in my community, who don't usually receive support due to our area not being one with a high number of people from ethnically diverse communities.

Their newsletters provide me with insightful information that has benefit those around me too. 

9. In your opinion, how better can the sport sector work with specific communities to better engage ethnically diverse women in sport? 

To recognise the height and depth of the barriers to engaging with sport. They should speak to the communities they want to support without assumption and truly listen to what they have to say. Women are so often spoken for and not listened to and this causes distrust and low engagement with the activity presented. 

For more information on Idaraya Life and how to use their services click here.

Find out more about Sporting Equals' Associate Members here.