Yusra Metwally is a Western Sydney graduate demonstrating that all women are entitled to the delights of sun, surf, and sand, regardless of how they dress. Yusra was featured in Grad Life, the Official Publication for Alumni of Western Sydney University. 

Yusra Metwally is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab. She’s also a Western Sydney University Law graduate, a Policy Officer with the NSW Ministry of Health, an ocean swim competitor and budding triathlete. In life and in the water, Yusra refuses to be boxed in by preconceptions, and this has caused a ripple-effect through her women’s swimming group, Swim Sisters. Formerly known as the Burkini Babes, the group encourages women to challenge fears and stereotypes through challenging themselves in the water.

In life and in the water, Yusra refuses to be boxed in by preconceptions, and this has caused a ripple-effect through her women’s swimming group, Swim Sisters. Formerly known as the Burkini Babes, the group encourages women to challenge fears and stereotypes through challenging themselves in the water.

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Formerly known as the Burkini Babes, the group encourages women to challenge fears and stereotypes through challenging themselves in the water.

Now encompassing more than 30 members, the group formed after last year’s ‘burkini ban’, announcement in France.

“I saw an image of a policeman making a woman remove her hijab at the beach and thought it went completely against the concept of liberty,” Yusra says.

The Chester Hill resident sent out a late-night Facebook call to action, and had quickly mustered several like-minded women.

What started as a political reaction became a sisterhood of Muslim and non-Muslim women, some who wear hijabs, others who don’t.

Bonded by friendship and fitness goals, they unite for regular early morning training sessions at local pools and beaches around Sydney, from the Eastern Suburbs to the Northern Beaches.

For some of the burkini-wearing members, joining Swim Sisters gave them the confidence to get back into the water.

“Some of the women were strong swimmers growing up but because of the debate about banning the burkini, they no-longer felt comfortable to swim in public spaces and stopped swimming.”

Overcoming social divisions has been another positive side effect. “Water is a great leveller,” Yusra says. “As visibly Muslim women, participating in ocean swim events allows people to connect and engage with Muslim women in a way they previously haven’t. Nobody is thinking about our differences during an event, we’re all just thinking about getting through the challenge and battling the same waves.”

Along with swimming events, Swim Sisters has teamed up with various groups to offer Western Sydney women swimming lessons and ocean swim training.

“We’re creating a culture of learning how to swim” Yusra says. “Teaching women to swim means their families will learn to swim.”

Yusra is now back at Western Sydney University completing a Bachelor in Business (Economics) alongside her full-time job and swim training commitments.

“Being back at university as a mature aged student helps me to apply my learnings at an organisational level, with community projects I am inolved with.” Yusra says.

Wherever it will ultimately lead she’s unsure, but her vision is clear.

“Whatever I do, I want it to make a difference and create positive change.”

This article was originally posted in Grad Life, the Official Publication for Alumni of Western Sydney University.