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  • Turning fear into fins

    That a girl who grew up far from water, without any experience or knowledge of swimming, would take her first swims on her own as an eighteen-year-old; and then training as a swimming instructor and starting her own swimming school, is a story that inspires. Muna Idow is the mermaid who found her fins relatively late in life and who has made it her life's project to spread the love of water further.

    When you hear Muna talk, it's easy to believe that anything is possible. And with an attitude like hers, maybe it is. Coming from Somalia to Sweden as a teenager, without knowing the language or the culture, brings more challenges than most teenagers face. Muna's grandfather and father were strong role models who stood behind her. From an early age, they often repeated that everything is possible - but also that nothing is free in life, you have to fight for it. They were both, as Muna herself puts it, "not the tough entrepreneurs, but caring and generous ones who saw themselves in other people's shoes and helped those who needed it". Convinced that Muna herself wanted to make a difference in society, she realized that good grades and knowing the language would make things easier.

    Most subjects, including Swedish, went easily. But when she came to sports, she found out that in order to pass the exam, she needs to be able to swim. No one in Muna's family knew how to swim. Growing up in Somalia, there weren't swimming lessons and the water felt unsafe - especially for her, as a woman. Convinced that nothing would stop her, she went straight to a swim shop and bought swimwear. She took her sister by the hand and looked for the nearest swimming pool.


    In retrospect, it may seem naive, but at the time she did not reflect on the fact that it could have been dangerous to just jump into the deep water. She grabbed the edge of the pool and began to mimic those around her. Her sister, on the other hand, was not as bold, and instead sat expectantly to the side. Muna decided to help her overcome her fear while trying to learn to swim herself. After that - eveyrthing unfolded quickly. In just a few months, she got a pass in sports. She then joined a local swimming club and jumped at an offer to train as a swimming instructor to show more young girls it was possible.

    When Muna was in her last year of high school, she chose to start Mermaid Simskola - a swimming school that strives to make swimming accessible and inclusive for everyone. Muna knows that no one should have to be ashamed of not being able to swim or risk their own safety, because they didn't have any water habits growing up. 

    It's not just about being able to swim, it's about making young girls and women more independent and confident. It is not the water that is dangerous, but the ignorance.

    Muna Idow


    Impact Story

    One of the over 100 young girls Muna has thought how to swim is Sara. When Sara first tried swimming, her experience left her feeling defeated. 

    “I just wanted to give up,” she recalls. But despite her reluctance, Sara’s mother managed to convince her to give swimming one last try with Mermaid Swimming School. 

    At first Sara was quite shy and extremely afraid of the water. But with a little patience and gentle encouragement, slowly but surely, Sara developed trust in her instructors and gave swimming a try. She has since passed her swimming test, an accomplishment she admits she sometimes has a hard time believing.

     “I have gained a lot of self-esteem, and feel safer and more secure, especially now that I know how to save someone who needs my help as a girl who knows how to swim." shared Sara.

    Muna is one of the 10 Change Leaders, suppored in our Incubator in Sweden in 2022. Our Incubator helps proof-of-concept and early growth stage social entrepreneurs further develop and build their organizations as they work towards increasing their impact for children and youth. The support typically lasts two years and consists of three main areas; capacity development, network connections, and stamp of approval.