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Female and inter faith connection through wrestling

To mark the end of Inter Faith Week, British Wrestling's Legacy Project officer explains how this initiative by the governing body helps women from different backgrounds come together and demonstrate the sport's inclusion.

17th November 2023

by Sahara Mohammed
The Legacy Project officer, British Wrestling

Wrestling has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, with females making their mark and shattering stereotypes.

This development not only showcases the empowerment of women but it also offers a striking link to inter faith unity.

Because in a world marked by religious diversity and cultural differences, female wrestlers serve as powerful role models demonstrating that strength, resilience and shared passion can bridge the gaps of faith and belief.

Historically, wrestling was perceived as a male-dominated sport but this narrative has changed dramatically nowadays.

British Wrestling has made a commitment to working with clubs on a grassroots level to aid the shift and bring wrestling to a whole new demographic.

The Legacy Project

The formation in 2022 of The Legacy Project gave coaches and clubs the resources necessary to support and develop female wrestling in many communities across the country.

Delving into these disenfranchised groups allowed British Wrestling to see what we could do to better engage and make the sport more accessible to everyone, particularly those from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Wrestling has strong ties to both culture and religion for many people from these communities, so projects like ours have created a space for people to connect not only with each other but also with themselves and their identities.

In a world marked by religious diversity and cultural differences, female wrestlers serve as powerful role models demonstrating that strength, resilience and shared passion can bridge the gaps of faith and belief.

This connection goes further than the sport and can really impact lives and spark a change in the perception of the discipline that is wrestling.

Meeting these women and learning their stories has shown us their perspectives and given us a better understanding of their hesitations and where we need to focus our energy to help them get through these barriers.

Some are Muslims, others are Christians and Sikhs, but we all come together, train and help each other in an environment that help us exercise and have a great time together.

Three main barriers that we aim to overcome with this project are:


The female workforce

A lack of female coaches means that we are unable to run classes in some areas and miss out on a wide range of potential athletes.

This issue was highlighted in the early stages of the project, but through our guidance, we have successfully qualified twelve coaches all over the country.

At British Wrestling, we believe that development is continuous so we have facilitated networking events, such as a focus group to share experiences and brainstorm plans for expanding our horizons.

A consistent level of communication has also been achieved between coaches to field any questions and concerns with the group so that the clubs can be better equipped.

Cultural setbacks

Female wrestlers from ethnically diverse communities in the UK face several cultural setbacks.

Traditional gender norms often discourage or limit female participation in sports - particularly wrestling and other combat sports - because cultural expectations around modesty, family responsibilities, and career choices can hinder culturally diverse women from pursuing wrestling.

Additionally, stereotypes and biases can create barriers in terms of acceptance and representation.

These setbacks highlight the need for cultural awareness, support and representation in the UK wrestling community to encourage inclusivity and provide opportunities for the culturally diverse female wrestler to thrive.


There are a series of misconceptions that deter women from participating, such as wrestling considered an exclusively male sport, an idea perpetuated by historical gender biases and the lack of female representation.

Additionally the misconception that wrestling does not align with traditional notions of femininity, may deter women.

Addressing these misconceptions requires the promotion of inclusivity, the highlighting of physical benefits and showcasing successful female wrestlers who defy stereotypes. 

Working for the future generations

One of the pioneers for our project is Impact Fitness Academy's very own Coach Haniyah.

Her journey started as a volunteer but she later grew to be a core member of the team, spearheading the fierce female programme in Birmingham, taking on the role of the head coach and even expanding to help set up projects in other areas.

Another name to look out for is Coach Whabna. She is part of Bahja Initiative, an Islamic faith centre aiming to bring about a positive change in the Lancashire community of Accrington, by including wrestling as part of their mosque curriculum, making it easily accessible.

They have 75 girls participating on a weekly basis.

She is a true role model, working hard to help young girls from a range of ages and reaching some of the most deprived areas in the UK, with Accrington being ranked in the bottom 2% of neighbourhoods based on multiple deprivations. 

It's clear that wrestling permeates multiple areas of life and that it’s not just limited to the sporting sphere, but has the potential to penetrate religion also, evidenced by the incredibly successful Bahja Initiative.

So, with further exposure to wrestling for the general public by the work done by British Wrestling and The Legacy Project, we can squash these barriers and move towards a future where wrestling has a place in the lives of all.

Find out more

British Wrestling

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