Celebrating International Day of Sports for Development and Peace

by Oceania Rugby

Get into Rugby PLUS Fiji and Samoa celebrates International Day of Sport for Development and Peace recognising the positive and powerful role sport plays globally.

Get into Rugby PLUS is a flagship Sport for Development programme that embeds life skills learning with Rugby Union to promote positive behaviour, gender equality, and prevent violence against women, girls and boys.

The programme demonstrates gender equality in action with 50% male and female players and coaches, and engages young people in experiential activities and processes of critical thinking and reflection around issues of respectful relationships, gender stereotypes and ending violence against women and children.

Get into Rugby PLUS is jointly developed and implemented by Oceania Rugby, Fiji Rugby Union, Samoa Rugby Union, UN Women and ChildFund Rugby. The programme is co-funded by the Australian Government’s Team Up initiative through its partnership with Rugby Australia and Oceania Rugby; by UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office, through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership), funded primarily by the European Union, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women; and ChildFund Rugby.

Many of the programme’s coaches and staff are passionate advocates for sport as a vehicle for social change and the #WhiteCard campaign, having experienced transformational change themselves and seeing it among their players as a result of their participation.

Fiji Get into Rugby Coach, Usaia Loki, acknowledges the impact of Get into Rugby PLUS. “It made me a better husband and father.”

“I had to change in order for this program to work. I get to teach my players something that was never taught to me growing up. As they will grow up they would be that positive change our Fiji needs right now,” Loki said.

“I now understand that girls have power like boys”, shares a female player. “Before I thought only boys are allowed to play rugby but now I know girls can play too. Before I was not confident to say no to my friends, now I am bold enough to say no. Before I was too shy to speak up but not anymore. Before I don’t like to share my problems but when I am in the programme I get to know that we need to share our problem and it has changed me. I love to play rugby now.”

Evaluation data shows that the program is working, changing both attitudes and behaviours.

  • Girls and boys (aged 10-14 years) are more frequently promoting gender equality and reducing violence;
  • Players have the knowledge, attitudes and support to identify, reduce and report sexual harassment and violence;
  • The majority of the 500< girl and boy players have said or done something in the last six months to promote healthier relationships and help girls and boys have equal respect, including encouraging girls to play rugby (85%, a 42% increase for the boys); reduced negative peer pressure (80%); and standing up for friends being bullied (83%).
  • Many have become proactive change agents for gender equality and ending violence in their broader community;
  • Get into Rugby PLUS coaches are sought-after as leaders in other rugby structures; and
  • As rated by players, the programme creates a safer, more inclusive and better-quality rugby experience.

Data released by the World Health Organization earlier this year noted that almost 1 in 3 women will experience violence in their lifetime and for women in the Oceania region this rate is even higher. Rugby, as the favourite sport of Fiji and Samoa, provides an ideal vehicle to engage community leaders and young people to genuinely shift the dial toward gender equality and preventing violence.
Since its establishment in Fiji in 2018, Get into Rugby PLUS has grown significantly with more than 700 boys and girls participating in 2021. Already embedded in schools and it is now starting in junior rugby clubs and community settings. The program is being introduced in Samoa this year.

Recently appointed to leaded this expansion in Fiji and Samoa are two outstanding and inspiring women, their leadership and experience will be invaluable in the new phases of the programme.

Lavenia Yolovi, the new Fiji Get into Rugby PLUS National Coordinator, brings in a wealth of experience as the former head of Footballs’ Sport for Development programme in Fiji. As a young girl growing up in her village, she was denied the opportunity to play and had to just sit and watch from the sideline. But this did not end her dream to play sport. Through determination and passion, Lavenia fulfilled this dream becoming a dual international representative for Fiji in both Rugby Union and Football. She has vowed to give young girls that chance to have an equal opportunity to play any sport they want to play.

The same story applies to Toluiva Keneti recently appointed to lead the program in Samoa. Having led creative initiatives between rugby in Samoa and UN Women over several years, she is full of anticipation for her new role and determined to see Get into Rugby PLUS create a safer, more inclusive rugby experience for all genders.

Leading Oceania Rugby’s in this space is Sport for Development, Erin Hatton.

“Sport has the power to change individuals and communities. Well-designed Sport for Development programmes are a proven way to achieve positive social outcomes and support targets within the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 - to educate, to instill values and behaviours, and provide a safe space to address challenging issues like relationships, gender equality and ending violence against women and children.

We are immensely proud of what Oceania Rugby and our exceptional partners have achieved in Fiji and can’t wait to see the program commence in Samoa.” Said Hatton.

Get into Rugby PLUS will be celebrating by sharing #WhiteCard posts throughout the day.