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Pass It Back is an innovative new program using rugby to build the resilience and leadership skills of young people in 11 developing countries across our region, starting in Laos and Vietnam.

April 2, 2015

Supporting young leaders to Pass It Back in their communities

Sydney, Australia, 6 April 2015: ChildFund Australia, in partnership with Women Win and the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU), is launching an innovative program called Pass It Back in eleven countries across South and South-East Asia, starting in Laos and Vietnam. Harnessing the power of Sport for Development, Pass It Back will use rugby to build leadership and life skills of young people, enabling them to overcome challenges in their lives and to ‘pass it back’ to others in their communities.

Sport for Development and Peace

The scale and reach of what is being achieved through Sport for Development programs in recent years is undeniable. Sport has transcended the bounds of athleticism and entertainment to become an engine for peace and development in many parts of the world. Much of sport is about camaraderie and solidarity through collaboration, participation and teamwork – a framework which serves as a model for good citizenship.

In 2008, the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) adopted a new resolution declaring sport and play as fundamental human rights that must be honoured and present in every part of the world. Moreover, the 6th of April has been designated International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, honouring the potential of sport to address poverty and inequity.

Regional Context

“Sport brings people together. It can build knowledge, skills and attitudes that are transferable into everyday life. We have seen in Nonghet the power of sport to support the development of future Lao leaders who are able to contribute to national development and support Laos’ goal of graduation from Least Developed Country status by 2020. We are also very proud that this regional initiative started here in Laos, which will serve as an example for other countries around the region to develop their own Sport for Development projects, starting in Vietnam.”

Chris Mastaglio, Country Director, ChildFund Laos

Opportunities for participation in sport across Asia are growing, embraced by governments and NGOs as a means of enhancing social inclusion, health, and education, as well as developing strong leaders, however, barriers to participation remain in place. Across the eleven Pass It Back countries, opportunities to participate in organised sport remain limited and in many cases, even where opportunities exist, barriers affect participation for all. These barriers often disproportionately affect girls and young women and those from more rural and remote communities and include stigma around sports participation, early marriage, poor health and hygiene, low self-confidence and household responsibilities.

“As a girl I was always very shy, now I am a brave and confident young woman. I want to help involve as many girls and women from rural and remote communities as possible in rugby so they, too, can feel brave and strong.”

Lao Kang, Youth Leader and Coach, Lao Rugby Federation

In South-East Asia, the strengthening of ASEAN and the start of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) will result in changes across the regional landscape that will create new risks and opportunities. Participation in team sports helps children build the necessary leadership and resilience needed to thrive in a changing world and the knowledge, skills and attitudes built through this program will support young people to be strong citizens within their countries and beyond, starting in Laos and Vietnam.

Pass It Back Launch

The Pass It Back Partnership will be officially launched on the 6th of April 2015, the second International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, celebrating the collaborative efforts of the program partners and supporters. Information on the full range of Sport for Development events happening globally, including the Pass It Back launch, can be found at

The partnership will build on three years of work undertaken in Laos between ChildFund Australia and the Lao Rugby Federation, under the Ministry of Education and Sports, under a Memorandum of Understanding between ChildFund Australia and the National Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Eradication, supported closely by the Nonghet district and Xieng Khouang provincial authorities. This experience will be taken forward in Laos and also replicated in Vietnam over the next two years, with the goal of eventually also covering Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Pass It Back will work to develop young coaches, qualified in rugby, leadership development, first aid and safeguarding children, to deliver rugby participation opportunities in their local communities and to provide safe and organised sporting opportunities for boys, girls and young men and women.

Women Win said they are delighted to be a part of this new and innovative partnership as they strongly believe that effective collaboration is essential to successfully tackling complex issues like gender inequity and economic empowerment. Meg Smith, Programs Director at Women Win, explained that “globally, our work is positioned at the intersection of development, sport and women’s rights and Pass it Back brings the three together generating significant potential for scale, efficiency and impact.”

Aga Hussein, Executive Committee Member of the Asian Rugby Football Union, also offered the regional governing body’s firm support for the partnership saying that “all eyes will be on Asia from 2015, moving towards the next Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Olympics in 2020, both events being held in Japan, along with the SEA games this year in Singapore and the Asian Games in 2018 in Indonesia, all events with rugby. It is critical that these international events inspire action at the grassroots level and ARFU believes that Pass It Back is a creative approach to ensuring this happens. We would like to congratulate the Lao Rugby Federation and the Lao Government for their pioneering efforts towards this important regional goal.”

Australian Ambassador John Williams expressed his pride to host the partnership launch, which builds on existing Sport for Development work in Laos, funded by the Australian Government. “Australia is a country that loves its sport and along with our long-term commitment to supporting development in Laos, we are very excited to see sport used to build young people’s capacities to contribute to development across the region. I am also very pleased to see that this regional initiative, covering up to 11 countries, began here in Laos and will be expanding first to our neighbours in Vietnam. We look forward to following the partnership closely and to providing ongoing support where we can.”

This event will mark the beginning of this unique partnership between ChildFund Australia, Women Win and the Asian Rugby Football Union, as they work towards supporting activities across eleven Pass It Back countries with one billion young people and supporting the next generation of leaders in Asia.

Further Information