Wales’ first-ever Young Women’s Sports Conference will inspire a generation

As International Women’s Day approaches, Urdd Gobaith Cymru is proud to host Wales’ first-ever Young Women’s Sports Conference. The #FelMerch (transl. ‘Like a girl’) conference will be held over the weekend (March 5-6) at the Urdd Residential Center in Cardiff Bay. Its aim is to inspire, support and empower young women between the ages of 16 and 25 to get involved in sport.

150 women from across Wales are expected to attend the conference, to benefit from motivational speeches and various workshops led by 20 inspiring and leading experts in their fields. The conference will also be an opportunity to share ideas and discuss options and opportunities for volunteering, training and qualification in the world of sport.

The bilingual conference, suitable for Welsh learners, will be moderated by endurance adventurer, athlete and presenter Lowri Morgan. Speakers include Gemma Grainger, Hollie Arnold MBE, Laura McAllister, Natasha Harding, Elinor Snowsill and Gwennan Harries.

The national #FelMerch project was launched in June 2021 by the Urdd Sports Department supported by Sport Wales, to tackle the fact that young women are more likely to drop out of sport as teenagers, especially since the pandemic.

Gemma Grainger, National Women’s Director for Wales, said: “I’m really looking forward to the Urdd’s #FelMerch conference. The weekend, along with the wider #FelMerch initiative, is vitally important in increasing girls’ participation and providing more opportunities in all sport in Wales.

“I was lucky enough to see the success of #FelMerch first hand at the Urdd Center in Llangrannog, and the support of Urdd in organizing fan buses for our Cymru matches. I’m delighted to see how #FelMerch will continue to grow in the future.

Hollie Arnold MBE, four-time Paralympian and multiple world record holder, added: “Over time, young women have often been told they can’t do something or won’t be good at something. because of their gender. I had challenges in my life growing up with a disability, but I always used it to my advantage. For me, it’s all about the mindset and attitude to any challenge.

“All young women deserve the same opportunities and that’s why I’m delighted to be part of the first ever young women’s sport conference in Wales, #FelMerch, helping to inspire, empower and provide opportunities to help young people women and girls to realize their full potential and achieve their goals.

Giving young people a voice is at the heart of Urdd’s work, and one of the youngsters speaking at the conference is Francesca Antoniazzi from Anglesey, an avid netball player who broke her back in an accident 5 years ago. She did not give up the sport and began training as a wheelchair netball player and weightlifter and won two Welsh Championship golds and two British Championship silvers.

Francesca Antoniazzi

Francesca said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done. There is always a way around this, even if you have to ask for help, help is not weakness.

Delegates will hear stories from women who have succeeded in professional sporting roles, and examine sport in its larger context. Coach Catrin Ahmun will discuss fitness and mental health, a session with Chef Beca Lyne Perkins will teach delegates about the relationship between food and sport, and a session on body image and sport will be hosted by model and former Love Island contestant Connagh Howard.

The event will be held with the support of the Welsh Government, and Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, is delighted to be taking part: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak at this first-ever sports conference for young women. and supporting the #FelMerch activity program. #FelMerch plays such an important role in encouraging participation in sporting activity, regardless of ability, and in creating safe environments in which It promises to be a very inspiring event.

Siân Lewis, Chief Executive of Urdd Gobaith Cymru, added: “Ensuring that young women receive the support and opportunities to play sport is a priority for us as an organization – 56% of young people who participate in our weekly sports activities across Wales are Woman. #FelMerch has created new opportunities for girls in sports, inclusive weekly activities, discussion forums, community centers during the holidays and much more. The response has been overwhelming, and we hope this conference will help inspire a generation of young women to discover all the benefits of playing sports.

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