Results released this week by Oceania Rugby and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office’s sport-for-development programme, Get Into Rugby PLUS Fiji (GIR PLUS), show transformative changes among players, coaches and for rugby more broadly.
The GIR PLUS programme aims to promote gender equitable norms, attitudes and behaviours, and prevent violence against women and girls and by doing so, strengthen inclusion in the sport. It builds upon World Rugby’s Get Into Rugby development programme which provides a safe and inclusive playing environment, and adds life skills that support girls and boys in a process of critical thinking and reflection around issues of gender, power, respectful relationships and peer pressure, all built around Rugby Values - integrity, solidarity, respect, discipline and passion.
The programme is co-funded by Oceania Rugby, through Rugby Australia and the Australian Government’s Pacific Sports Partnerships, and by UN Women Fiji MCO, through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership), funded primarily by the European Union, with targeted support from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.
Key results shared with partners and media, show:
- Girls and boys are proactively promoting gender equality and reducing violence;
- Players now have the knowledge, attitudes and support to identify, reduce and report sexual harassment and violence;
- The programme has had a transformative impact on GIR PLUS coaches - they have become proactive change agents for gender equality and ending violence;
- Get into Rugby PLUS coaches are being sought-after as leaders in rugby; and
- The programme creates a safer, more inclusive and better-quality rugby experience.
Data shows an overwhelming majority of the 332 young players aged 10-14 years (170 girls, 162 boys) in 13 schools across Fiji, have said or done something in the last six months to help girls and boys have equal respect. Their actions include: 1) encouraging girls to play rugby (85%); 2) reduced negative peer pressure (80%); and 3) standing up for friends being bullied (83%).
There were important shifts in the attitudes of players towards women’s and girls’ participation in rugby; women as leaders; capability of female coaches in comparison to male coaches; response to peer pressure and sexual harassment; understanding safe, healthy and respectful relationships and different forms of violence.
By the end of the programme in 2019, over 93% of girls and 97% of boys knew of a place or person near their home or school where they can go to report violence or abuse - such as their GIR PLUS coach, Child Helpline, Police or the Fiji Women’s Crises Centre (also a programme partner). Over 95% of players selected their Get into Rugby PLUS coach as someone they can disclose experience of violence to, demonstrating the strong trust coaches have built with their teams and that GIR PLUS players have an avenue for support that other youth may not identify nor have.
The size of player support networks has also increased dramatically, with 60% of both girls and boys indicating they now have more than 10 people they could go to for support if they had a serious problem, and every player had at least one person, which is significant, given at baseline 7% of girls and 17% of boys said they had no one they could go to.
Oceania Rugby Board Member Cathy Wong said the 2019 programme results clearly shows that not only is GIR PLUS making a positive impact in the lives of female and male players, but also the programme’s coaches.
“It is equipping and empowering both female and male coaches to deliver high-quality, safer, more inclusive rugby, and contributing to addressing gender inequality and the manifestations of violence against women, girls and boys in Fiji.”
Each coach has been equipped with the diverse skills needed to successfully deliver the programme to their team, and over 80% of these coaches have since been appointed to other leadership positions as a result of their involvement. In turn, they are influencing values in rugby more broadly.
Coaches Noame Rabeni from Naitasiri and Usaia Loki from Nausori, shared the growth they have seen in their players and in themselves.
Said Ms Rabeni, “When we first started, they [the players] were shy and didn’t share much. But throughout the year, their confidence has blossomed, as have their rugby skills! Not only do they speak their mind, stand up for themselves and others, know right from wrong, they are also winning tournaments. They call themselves the Rara Rugby Warriors – because they are warriors. I am happy to be part of their empowerment journey. I’ve learned so much from this programme and from the girls – just like them, my confidence is also high”.
“We faced some challenges in the beginning when the community wasn’t ready to accept girls as rugby players and had concerns about some of the myths that surround female rugby players. It’s more common for women in my village to support rugby and not play rugby.”
The GIR PLUS 2019 programme results clearly show the initiative is making a difference and worth investing in for continued longer-term growth.
In his address at the event, the Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency John Feakes said, “Australia is pleased to share both World Rugby and Oceania Rugby’s commitment to using rugby as a tool to promote gender equality and end violence against women and girls. Their work aligns with our domestic efforts in Australia, as we face similar gender equality challenges, and the work being done regionally under the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls. The evaluation results are also timely as they will inform and complement the Fijian Government’s National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women, the first of its kind in the region.”
“ Our approaches”, said UN Women Fiji MCO’s Ending Violence Against Women and Girls’ Programme Technical Specialist Abigail Erikson, “whether through the Get Into Rugby PLUS programme or as gender-equality partners for the Oceania 7s Championships – all support the strong evidence that participation in sports can help breakdown gender stereotypes, improve girls’ and women’s self-esteem and self-confidence and contribute to the development of leadership skills. We’re proud of this partnership and to contribute to this transformation.”
The programme continues in 2020 and aims to nearly double its reach within Fiji.