ChildFund appointed principal charity partner for Rugby World Cup 2021 to support the next generation of unstoppable women in rugby

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  • Partnership set to grow rugby for development and gender equality initiatives in Oceania and beyond
  • ChildFund become first ever charity partner for the women’s edition of a Rugby World Cup
  • Rugby fans will have the opportunity to opt in to donate when purchasing match day tickets
  • Appointment builds on record-breaking success of previous partnership for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan where £2 million was pledged by rugby fans to support ChildFund’s rugby for development programmes and Typhoon Hagibis disaster relief
  • Rugby World Cup 2021 hosted by New Zealand set to take place 8 October – 12 November 2022 in Auckland and Whangārei


World Rugby has announced the appointment of international development agency ChildFund as the principal charity partner for Rugby World Cup 2021, playing in 2022, a first in the history of the premier women’s 15s event.

Rugby fans will have the opportunity to engage with and support the work of ChildFund Rugby, ChildFund’s dedicated rugby for development unit, via an opt in mechanism to donate when purchasing match day tickets, with funds raised through the partnership supporting the expansion of rugby for development programmes in Oceania. With a focus on gender equality initiatives, ChildFund works with partners, including Oceania Rugby, to provide vulnerable girls and women with opportunities to learn skills to overcome challenges and be active leaders in their communities.

World Rugby Chief Executive Officer Alan Gilpin said: “We are delighted to be extending our association with ChildFund, this time as principal charity partner for Rugby World Cup 2021. The tournament will showcase rugby’s unstoppable women as they compete at the highest level.

“Importantly, it will also generate an incredible legacy by supporting a new generation of female players and leaders in Pacific Island nations through ChildFund’s significant contribution to rugby for development programmes in the Oceania region.”

Through a ground-breaking partnership at RWC 2019, a record-breaking £2 million was pledged by rugby fans globally to ChildFund, providing more than 25,000 children from disadvantaged communities in Asia with the opportunity to take part in ChildFund’s Pass It Back programme across Asia, teaching life skills through rugby with the support of Asia Rugby.

Funds raised were also used to support local communities in Japan with the rebuilding effort following the devastation caused by Typhoon Hagibis during the tournament.

ChildFund Rugby’s development programmes not only promote the right to play in communities where children have little or no access to organised sport, but provide important learning opportunities around leadership, problem-solving, gender equality, relationships, conflict-resolution, and planning for the future.

With a strong focus on gender equality, a strategic objective shared by World Rugby, over half of all participants and rugby leadership roles are female, challenging gender stereotypes.

ChildFund Alliance Chair Simon Whyte said: “ChildFund is excited to again be partnering with World Rugby to change children’s lives through sport.

“Over 31,000 children and young people have benefitted from their involvement in ChildFund’s rugby for Development programs, which are highly successful in providing critical learning opportunities for children facing significant challenges linked to poverty and inequality.

“As part of this, 6,000 children have participated in Reconnect, a COVID-19 early response initiative developed by ChildFund which supports positive responses among young people to the challenges of the pandemic.

“ChildFund’s rugby for development programs also support global efforts to achieve gender equality, reduce inequality, and end gender-based violence, reflecting targets within the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

ChildFund Ambassadors Honey Hireme-Smiler and Emily Chancellor, former and current New Zealand and Australian players, will be on opposing sides when the tournament commences. However, they are on the same team in recognising the importance of organised sport in girls’ and boys’ lives, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Hireme-Smiler, former New Zealand Black Fern, said: “I am extremely passionate about supporting younger girls as this was how we were raised within our whanau (family). The ways in which ChildFund makes an impact on the lives of vulnerable children – whether through health and wellbeing, education, or sport – is so inspiring.

Wallaroos player Emily Chancellor, who shared her rugby skills with children in Laos in 2019, added: ChildFund Rugby’s development programmes are incredibly important for young people in developing communities, because they combine education with team sport. Learning through play is a really valuable way to build confidence and resilience.

“I’m also proud to support an initiative which has such a strong focus on gender equality and is creating an equal playing field for girls and boys alike.”

Funds raised during the tournament will allow ChildFund Rugby to expand its contribution to rugby for development programmes for children and young people in Oceania, support female leadership initiatives, and support the creation of strong rugby women’s networks around the globe.

ChildFund Australia CEO Margaret Sheehan said: “Well designed sport for development programs are a proven way to achieve positive social outcomes, such as building resilience, youth leadership and gender equity. We are proud and excited to be part of this major global initiative to improve the lives of children and young people as communities recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

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Launched yesterday in Suva (Fiji) and Apia (Samoa), Team Up, the Australian Government’s Sport for Development program, will support the delivery of Get into Rugby PLUS in both Fiji and Samoa over the next two years.

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

Get into Rugby PLUS is jointly developed and implemented by Oceania Rugby, UN Women, ChildFund Rugby and the Fiji and Samoa Rugby Unions.

The program 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, with targeted support from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, and from UN Women; and ChildFund.

Established in 2018 in Fiji, Get into Rugby PLUS is making a positive impact on both its players and coaches who are now proactively promoting gender equality and have greater knowledge and support to identify, reduce and report harassment and violence.

Many Get into Rugby PLUS coaches assert that the program has had a transformative influence upon them and have become proactive change agents for gender equality and ending violence.

In 2021, its fourth year, over 700 girls and boys in Fiji are expected to benefit from the program in Fiji.

Get into Rugby PLUS will be introduced in Samoa in 2021 with 20 coaches working with 12–16 year-old secondary school boys and girls. Get into Rugby PLUS benefits from the unique collaboration of high calibre sport and international development organisations, all of whom are thrilled to have the support of Team Up for the next two years.

Kolu Sewabu, National Development Manager at Fiji Rugby Union said: “The launch is indeed a blessing to our flagship rugby for development program, Get into Rugby PLUS, that embeds life skills learning to promote positive behaviour, gender equality and the prevention of violence against women, girls and boys, a critical issue that is crippling our society.

“Building on what has already been piloted and established, led by trained coaches who model the values of inclusion and diversity, we are thankful to Team Up, Rugby Australia, Oceania Rugby, UN Women and ChildFund, for the provision of funding and equipment to further boost this program which has been making greater impacts on those involved. Many coaches assert the transformative influence the program has had upon them and have become proactive change agents for gender equality and ending violence.”

Samoa Rugby Union’s Taala Tui Komiti, Manager Development and Competitions, who attended the in-country launch in Samoa said: “We thank the Australian government for their support through Team Up, a Sport for Development program as we welcome its launch this morning. We are very excited as the Get into Rugby PLUS program will soon be implemented in our country with its focus on rugby skills and life skills. It will be a good program to increase our participation number especially girls but also to change players’ and coaches’ attitudes and behaviours.”

Oceania Rugby’s General Manager Bruce Cook said: “We welcome the launch of Team Up this week and thank the Australian government for its support. Over the last three years of Get into Rugby PLUS in Fiji we have seen outstanding change in both rugby skills and participants attitudes and behaviours around gender norms and domestic violence. We look forward to seeing Get into Rugby PLUS flourish in Samoa through 2021-22.”

UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office Programme Manager – Ending Violence Against Women, Abigail Erikson said, “It is wonderful to see progress towards gender equality and ending violence against women and girls through sports. Through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls programme, UN Women is proud to work with partners who are committed to reflect on their own practices and promote change within the sporting community and beyond. We are looking forward to working even closely together in the next two years in Fiji and Samoa.”

ChildFund’s Sport for Development Director, Chris Mastaglio said: “ChildFund is excited to be part of the incredible work of partners in Fiji and Samoa and we look forward to supporting the delivery of a high-quality learning experience for children that delivers, and evidences, learning and game growth.”

Rugby Australia’s General Manager of Community Rugby James Selby said “We are once again thankful to the Australian Government for supporting the incredibly impactful work that Rugby organisations on individual and communities across the Oceania region. The future successes, built on strong partnerships with National Unions, UN Women, ChildFund Rugby, will utilise rugby as a vehicle to drive gender equality, prevention of violence, leadership and life skills. This new phase of Australia’s sport for development program is verification of the impact sport can have on the lives of people and Rugby Australia is proud to contribute to this work and the important outcomes.”

More about Get into Rugby PLUS

Building on World Rugby’s Get into Rugby initiative, and Fiji and Samoa’s favourite sport, girls and boys in the program benefit from involvement in fun, progressive team activities led by trained coaches who model the values of inclusion and diversity, and create safe playing environments.

Life skills learning components engage players in processes of critical thinking and reflection around issues of respectful relationships, gender stereotypes and violence to build the knowledge, confidence and resilience. The curriculum uses rugby’s values of integrity, solidarity, respect, discipline and passion as its foundation.

Get into Rugby PLUS supports regional initiatives to build gender equality and prevent violence against women, girls and boys. Developed specifically for communities within the Pacific region, the curriculum has been adapted from ChildFund Rugby’s award-winning sport for development program, Pass It Back.