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Levelling the playing field for gender equality in the Pacific region through rugby

The involvement of women in sport often defies gender stereotypes, fostering a healthy lifestyle and inclusivity, while transcending race, religion, sexuality and nationality.

Rugby — traditionally a male dominated sport—is starting to make strides in the Pacific towards gender equality, with a record number of women’s teams taking their talents to the field and joining the rugby workforce.

                                                                              Photo: UN Women/Caitlin Clifford

“We are rated among the top four in the 2016/17 world standings,” said Fijianas Rugby 7s captain Ana Roqica. “Ever since I started playing rugby, the crowd used to tell us that it’s a ‘men’s sport’… now they really love how the women are playing rugby,” she said.

                            Fijian Rugby 7s Captain Ana Roqica. Photo: Oceania Rugby

“Rugby is my passion. Growing up in my village in Tavua, I used to play rugby with the boys and I’ve grown to love rugby,” said Fijiana 7s player Rusila Nagasau, adding, “It’s that coconut tree on the jersey that makes us proud, as it’s not just about myself but my family and my country.”

To encourage more equal participation of women and men, Oceania Rugby and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2017. 

Through the MoU, both organisations are using their shared mandates and influence to work together on key messages and activities that promote gender equality and challenge social norms through sport.

In 2018, UN Women and Oceania Rugby will continue their joint advocacy to encourage women’s and girls’ equal participation in sport, leveraging the playing field of rugby for social change to empower women and girls.