Bseira Women’s Gym: Much More Than Just Exercise

Women in Bseira Find Health Benefits and Unexpected Social Benefits Through Exercise 

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Bseira CET members in the newly equipped Bseira Female Youth Center.

"During all dialogue sessions related to the women’s sector, all I remember is women repeatedly saying, ‘We wish we had a gym,’” said Siham Rofou, a member of the Bseira community enhancement team (CET), a group of community volunteers working with the USAID Community Engagement Project (CEP). “The lack of a gym poses a significant challenge for women here, since social norms and culture prevent us from exercising in public and offer very limited opportunities to socialize,” she added. In a society where the majority of women are housewives, this can lead to significant social isolation.

To help alleviate this stressor affecting the women of Bseira, the CET partnered with the Bseira Female Youth Center to repurpose one of its halls into a gym. With USAID CEP’s support, the hall was rehabilitated to accommodate sports activities. To ensure procured sports equipment matches the women’s interests, the CET conducted a survey and used the results to generate the procurement list which included bicycles, treadmills, yoga matts, and similar items. As a demonstration of community commitment to the project, the total value of the activity was increased by 34% through cost share.

Nearly a year later, the women of Bseira are not shy in expressing their satisfaction. “I was the first person to join the gym after I saw their ad on Facebook, because I wanted to improve my health and mood. I also needed a break from the routine of staying at home, and wanted to meet other women at the center,” said Sahar, a house wife. “The central location and manageable fee encouraged me to attend,” added Intisar. She had tried going to a gym before, but the transportation costs and high gym fees prevented her from continuing.

“You know, since I joined the gym I lost a significant amount of weight. But I expected that. What I did not expect, however, is how much my mood would improve,” said Intisar. Sahar echoed her remarks. “I lost 13 kg in 3 months. But more importantly, I met new friends which positively affected my mood. Now my husband encourages me and watches our young daughter when I go to the gym,” she added proudly.