Bristol Walking Group provides a safe space for women of color


The Steppin Sistas walking group

A local walking group born during the lockdown has provided an open and safe space for women of color in Bristol.

Steppin Sistas was created by nature enthusiast Sophie Brown to help support the mental health and well-being of women across the city.

Sophie remembers finding Bristol overwhelming and strange when she moved from the countryside to the city. She explained: ‘I was a little shocked that I didn’t see people of color walking through open green spaces in Bristol – wondering where everyone is?’

During the lockdown, Sophie began looking for local walking groups, but struggled to find any that were open and inclusive for all women of color.

As a result, Sophie created Steppin Sistas, and the group has grown steadily since.

Sophie explains that, in her experience, in addition to the affordability of outdoor equipment, one of the biggest barriers women of color face when going outdoors is fear of the outdoors. unknown and the feeling of not belonging to the countryside in which the group is walking.

She said: “The importance of public trails is that they are for everyone. Nature is our natural habitat and it is essential that people of color feel safe and able to explore it.”

The founder of Steppin Sistas, Sophie Brown

Walking is a great way to improve not only physical health, but also mental health and general well-being.

Some women in the group reported feeling less lonely, less anxious, and sleeping better after walks.

Sophie explains: “Women of color go through a lot in life and it’s nice to be back in and out of our base – society is a very stressful place!

Some of the women who came for a walk had never walked the countryside before, but are now among the more regular women in the group.

“It’s quite touching,” adds Sophie, “they really felt something when they came out.”

As Steppin Sistas grows, they begin to collaborate with other organizations in the city.

The group organized a Black History Month march in October in association with local universities, and eagerly awaits a midnight march in the summer of 2022 to claim the right to feel safe on the streets.

The group will meet twice a month to walk around Bristol and the surrounding countryside from January.

In the spring, Sophie will guide them on one of her favorite walks – “Paradise Bottom” in Leigh Woods.

Sophie said: “It’s absolutely beautiful, and the best time to go is when the hyacinths and wild garlic have come out. Everything is all hyacinths!”

You can contact Steppin Sistas now by email or social media.

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