Great Britain’s Olympians Rebecca Adlington and Alice Dearing have given her a helping hand, whilst challenging her to swim 500 metres in open water in just eight weeks.
The whole experience is documented on a five-part podcast series called Brown Gal Can’t Swim, available on BBC Sounds from Monday 10 October. It will also be broadcast as a series on BBC Radio Leicester and East Midlands Today from Tuesday 11 October.
Summaya says: “I’ve spent over 20 years embarrassed about not having a skill it feels like kids have, especially when it’s something that could save your life. I’m terrified of the deep-end… so we’ll start there.”
Summaya enlisted the help of four-time Olympic medalist, Rebecca Adlington who together with Team GB’s Alice Dearing set her the challenge to swim 500metres in open water.
Rebecca says: “It’s such an important life skill. It’s one of the few sports that will genuinely save your life one day. You can’t live your life without seeing water in any capacity. It sounds like a really simple thing but it’s more the confidence that you have in water that will help save your life.”
It isn’t just about conquering the water. Brown Gal Can’t Swim also confronts the cultural barriers that many Pakistani Muslim women like Summaya may face – such as disagreements with family members, risking criticism from their community over breaking social conventions, and worrying about what to wear in the pool that will fall in line with Islamic expectations around female modesty.
“This podcast will see me uncover the reasons behind why other South Asian women can’t or don’t swim regularly. I aim to break down misconceptions about swimming and encourage members of our South Asian communities to take the plunge and learn to swim with me. I even get my dad involved – something I would never have imagined when I was younger,” says Summaya.
“I don’t know if I will achieve the final challenge of 500m in open water – I’m no athlete! – but I will give it everything I’ve got. The journey has tested me physically and emotionally but I’m hoping it makes a difference and encourages others to learn to swim too. After all, it could save your life”
Kay Wright, Editor at BBC Radio Leicester, says: “This is an eye-opening documentary, one that we can all take learnings from. We are so incredibly proud of Summaya.
We have seen how physically and emotionally gruelling this challenge has been for her, and now it will be available for everyone to see all her hard work.”
Kathryn Morrison, Executive Producer, Audio Commissioning Unit, says: “For once we can call a podcast a deep dive, as Summaya tests herself to the limit – psychologically and physically – in her struggle to complete the open water challenge.
Her friends and family have shared their swimming stories and Olympians Rebecca Adlington and Alice Dearing have provided brilliant help and support.
But until she gets into the water on the day of the test no one – not even Summaya herself- really knows if she is can face her fear and swim 500 m in deep water. I wish her the best of luck!”
Brown Gal Can’t Swim is available on BBC Sounds from Monday 10 October and on BBC Radio Leicester and BBC East Midlands Today on BBC One from Tuesday 11 October.
You can subscribe to the podcast by going to Brown Gal Can’t Swim on BBC Sounds