Black Girls Hike is More than a Walking Group: 'Why I'm Challenging Underrepresentation in Hiking'

Rhiane Fatinikun

From Women's Health

Growing up my mum would always take the scenic route. I always loved seeing the landscapes but never considered fully embracing the great outdoors until the beginning of 2019. I was on a train going through the Peak District, admiring the views, watching hikers get on and off the train and suddenly decided it was something I wanted to do it as well.

I remember posting a video of the scenery on my social media with a caption that said ‘I’m taking up hiking this year – Black Girls Hike [BGH].' The lack of representation in hiking is clear for all to see: It's never something I associated with Black people – it’s not even marketed at Black people. Historically dominated by white middle-class males I wasn’t keen on the prospect of venturing out alone or joining a typical hikers group where there'd be nobody I could identify with.

In my career, I work in an office, a predominantly white environment, where I experience stifling and exhausting daily microaggressions – over time this has impacted my mental health. Outside of work, I only ever enter safe spaces, so it felt natural to create Black Girls Hike – a community of women I relate to. I also wanted to provide others with the opportunity to do the same: A place where we can be our authentic selves, be active, support each other and be free from judgement.

A few days after making my social pledge, I set up the Instagram account Black Girls Hike and started planning our first hike. I had no hiking experience, couldn’t read a map and didn’t own any hiking boots or waterproofs, but I’d decided this was my new hobby, so I was going to roll with it.

We had 14 people attend our first hike, on a rainy Sunday, too. I’d found the route online and tried my best to memorise it, hoping I wouldn’t get us lost.

I’d never considered myself to be a leader and it took me a while to get used to it. I’ve always been an instigator, suggesting new things to do but I’ve also always shied away from responsibility at the same time.

I once got us lost in terrible conditions as I was ill-prepared, which was unsafe and I’m so grateful we made it back to the carpark without having to be rescued. After that I started taking my role more seriously, I took a navigation course which also taught me leadership skills.

Being part of BGH and knowing that I’m inspiring people, that people see me as a leader and role model is quite surreal sometimes. It’s a sisterhood, not just a hiking group, and it’s given me a lot more confidence in my own ability to affect change – after 19 hikes, we've had almost 150 women attend.

'Without Black Girls Hike I would never have felt confident enough to explore the wonders of nature all around us,' one of our members said. 'BGH has also allowed me to meet new people, gain confidence in venturing out into unfamiliar terrain and improved both my physical and mental wellbeing.'

Another Black Girls Hike member said that as a Black mother, joining Black Girls Hike has helped her start 'making new connections and appreciating the beauty surrounding me as well as within.'

I’m proud that we’re challenging stereotypes and showing people that the outdoors is for everyone – representation really does matter.

Things need to change and that can’t happen without the voices of underrepresented groups being heard. As well as finding new ways for us to explore and participate in outdoor activities, such as caving, gorge walking and climbing, I work with organisations and brands, highlighting issues faced by underrepresented groups, and suggesting strategies to overcome them.

My core advice to Black women and women of colour apprehensive about getting outdoors is to try and find a community of like-minded people to support you. And if you can’t, create your own.

Editor's Note: Black Girls Hike is a safe hiking community for Black women. Please be aware of this before requesting to join – it is integral that safe spaces are reserved for those who they are intended for.



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