Flying the flag for equality, diversity and inclusion on Health Walks

As part of Pride Month and Festival Fortnight, we hosted a Rainbow Walk and Conversation Café to show solidarity for the LGBTQIA+ community and explore how we and members of the Scottish Health Walk Network can continue making Health Walks even more welcoming and inclusive.

We show solidarity for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Festival Fortnight, managed and delivered by our friends at LEAP Sports is Scotland’s annual festival of sport designed to increase the visibility and participation of LGBTQIA+ community members in sport and physical activity. Taking place for two weeks every June, Festival Fortnight offers a wide range of sporting, recreational and cultural events and activities for participants, whether new to sport, or an active member of a sporting group.

Participants were invited to wear brightly coloured clothes in the colours of the rainbow to demonstrate that walking is for everyone, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Participants in colourful clothing talk and smile as they enjoy a Rainbow Walk.

The Rainbow Walk, guided by trained Walk Leaders and following a Health Walk format, took a meandering course through Stirling, incorporating social, cultural and natural environments of the area. Participants were afforded a valuable opportunity to network and chat with new friends, colleagues and representatives from ally organisations and members of the Scottish Health Walk Network, including Out on Sundays, LEAP Sports Scotland, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland, SWAN Autism (Scotland) and Active Stirling.

Health Walks are low level, free, accessible and inclusive walks, guided by a trained Walk Leader. Delivered by members of the Scottish Health Walk Network, over 850 regular walks take place in local communities across Scotland. These walks offer a chance for those taking part to meet new people, make friends and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of moving more.

After the walk, participants enjoyed a conversation over tea and cake about how members of the Scottish Health Walk Network can continue to make Health Walks even more inclusive for the community, recognising that stigma and lack of confidence are often barriers to participation. The conversation was centred around collaboration (working with the community), education (learning and upskilling), representation (increasing participation) and leadership (leading by example as an advocate and ally). Outputs from the discussion will in turn be shared with the wider Network to support the ongoing development of safe, welcoming and inclusive walks.

Participants sit around tables during a Conversation Café as part of the Rainbow Walk.

Kirsty Rankin, Walking for Health Programme Manager said,

Conversations around a dedicated walk progressed very quickly and I’m delighted with the interest and engagement it received from organisers and participants. The atmosphere and energy throughout the day really highlighted the importance of solidarity and community.

Our equality, diversity and inclusion commitments here at Paths for All are aligned with those of LEAP Sports Scotland, and the Rainbow Walk was part of a larger, longer-term body of work around diversity and inclusion on Health Walks. The strength of our partnership with LEAP Sports Scotland helps us to learn, grow and develop that robust commitment to the community.

This body of work began in June 2023, with the delivery of an LGBTQIA+ awareness session for staff at Paths for All. The sessions offered an overview of the diversity within the community, the importance of inclusion, safety and participation in physical activity, chiefly walking, and generated valuable discussions about how we can support the community to move more.

To better understand and support the community staff learned about the health needs of LGBTQIA+ community members, the diversity of gender, sexuality and identity, appropriate terminology and the physical, mental and social barriers that the community can often face, such as safety, stigma, lack of awareness and trans- and homophobic behaviour.

Munro Stevenson, Participation and Engagement Manager at LEAP Sports said,

It has been fantastic to have Paths for All join us for this year's Festival Fortnight. Their ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion for the LGBTIQ+ community embodies the main aims of the festival.

We are excited to see even more similar events in next year's festival.

Find out more about the Scottish Health Walk Network here.

Find out more about Health Walks here.