Photographs: Islington Council

Photograph: Steve Bainbridge

Fifteen Islington women are now fully-qualified lifeguards, with the week-long training course coming courtesy of This Girl Can Islington.

The National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) usually costs £250, but for female Islington residents it’s fully funded – from the first aid training to learning how to save a person in distress.

The newly-minted poolside guardians include 16-year-old Dajana Kastrati, who called it “a brilliant qualification to have”:

“The course was very interesting and I really enjoyed it. It was women-only, so I felt that I was more comfortable especially during the poolside training, and I gained confidence and met new friends.”

Kastrati has since donned cap and whistle professionally, joining the lifeguard team at Cally Pool & Gym on Caledonian Road.

Photograph: Steve Bainbridge

Photograph: Steve Bainbridge

The This Girl Can Islington project launched at Sobell Leisure Centre, Highbury in January 2016, and has been awarded with £236,000 of National Lottery funding. It’s stated aim is “to increase physical activity amongst women and girls aged 14 and over”.

In that spirit, as well as lifeguarding the project also operates £2 activity sessions with no sign-up fees, across the borough. Participants can choose from women-only exercise classes, swimming, gym, tennis and basketball, and more details can be found on the Islington Council website.

This Girl Can takes its lead from the national Sport England of the same name, which in 2017 helped 2.8 million women become more active.

Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health and social care, hailed the new lifeguards and the organisation’s work: “This Girl Can Islington is a fantastic initiative, not only getting more women and girls involved in sport, but offering training and qualifications that will help women to secure jobs.

“I would like to encourage all female residents to make the most of the activities and training opportunities on offer in the borough.”