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     Glasgow-based Bonnie Boots goes beyond providing just maps and snacks to the Black and ethnic women they take into our wildernesses.

    The first day of March is a daring time to explore The Trossachs National Park. Standing where quiet blue lowland lochs meet white-capped Highland giants, right on the precipice of spring, means our next seven hours of hiking with Bonnie Boots could be filled with any, or all, of the famous Scottish elements.


    We’ve joined the Glasgow-based community, which provides culturally sensitive safe spaces in the outdoors for women of Black and ethnic backgrounds, with a full range of GORE-TEX products for a (sunny and windless, as it happens) day of hiking, outerwear testing, and adventure education. For most of our hikers, this is their first time in the hills. For all, it’s an opportunity to not only learn about waterproof, windproof, and breathable GORE-TEX gear but to bank the essential knowledge needed to get out there again and again, long after our day is out.

    What becomes clearer as our time with Bonnie Boots goes on, is that our day together, and the Bonnie Boots mission, isn’t just about providing gear, skills, and a shared adventure. It’s about more. A lot more.

    We’ll allow Bonnie Boots co-ordinator, Afshan Saleem, to explain.


    This was never in the plan. Taking a role at something like Bonnie Boots - it just wasn’t something I was looking for. But I did know that I wanted to build on the work I’d done as a therapist. I come from a background of empowering women, mental wellbeing, and therapeutic coaching. That’s how I knew this job would be the right fit for me and my values. 

    Bonnie Boots is an organisation that’s all about making a difference. We create female-oriented safe spaces in hillwalking, fitness classes, and retreats, that meet the needs of cultural sensitivity and inspire inclusion. 

    How do we enable more Black and ethnic women to participate? That’s the question that drives us. Take one of our recent women’s badminton classes. As Muslim ladies, we’re wearing headscarves that can’t be taken off in the presence of males. By providing a culturally sensitive space for women, we can take part confidently, because we can feel more comfortable.

    It sounds so simple. But it’s so essential. These spaces address more issues than you might realise. 


    The Asian community has a very high rate of diabetes and heart disease. We’re giving women a way to better look after their bodies.

    We’re also giving them ways to feel stronger. If you’re in a great place mentally, you’re better prepared to deal with your issues at home and better prepared for whatever life throws at you.

    Think about the ripple effect that has. We’re not just helping the woman who joins us at Bonnie Boots. We’re empowering her to provide a healthier environment for her family, where she can be a better mum to her children and strengthen her relationship with her husband. Everyone she supports will feel the benefits. 

    Women understand women. At Bonnie Boots, we’re from the same Black backgrounds, so we understand the pressures, the stresses, and the struggles that we’re all faced with. And we’re empathetic to it. There’s huge value in peer-to-peer support systems, and I want to create those environments.

    I remember getting out on my bike after September 11th. I’m on the road, and I’m getting shouted at. It was awful abuse, all because I had my headscarf on. Then some guys, white guys, they came after me to knock me down. They thought it was funny. I was terrified. I’m a grown-ass woman, and I was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t safe. I felt excluded from society. I couldn’t just go outside without feeling threatened.   


    We are fighting. We're breaking down the barriers because they still exist. There are still these obstacles and walls. And it takes strong people to face them and start knocking them down. 

    Your soul becomes connected to nature when you’re out there. You're in a state of appreciation, of being grateful for your surroundings, and you breathe easier. Whether you believe in a god or not, it’s a spiritual experience.

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