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Fiji has a rich history of sports passion and expertise. With rugby as one of the most loved games in the country, Get into Rugby PLUS is maximising the benefits of the sport by using it as a tool to drive social change. It helps build the confidence and resilience of young people, promote positive behaviour, and challenge gender stereotypes.

Female Role Models in a Male-dominated Sport

“Women and girls can be just as successful in sport as men and boys, and I have proven that,” said Kitiana Kaitu, Fiji Rugby Union’s Get Into Rugby PLUS Coach and Educator. Kitiana shared her experience of taking on the role of a leader in a sport traditionally deemed as male-dominated.

“When I first began coaching the school’s first rugby team five years ago, a lot of men looked down on me. They would say ‘You should be cooking at home. This is no place for a woman!’ Despite the challenges and the constant criticism during tournament days, we kept pushing on,” she shared.

“I have always encouraged my girls and have always told them that if they believed in themselves, they could move mountains. So the girls kept playing and I continued to coach them. We won many games over the years.”

Kitiana said that thanks to Get into Rugby PLUS, more women and girls started to get involved in rugby. “Those who used to look down on us are now cheering for us. I could say that as females, we showed them that we are here to stay. Rugby is inclusive, it is a sport for all,” she said.

Lavenia Yalovi, Fiji Rugby Union’s National Coordinator for Get into Rugby PLUS talked about some of the positive impacts she has witnessed:  “In some schools and communities, it is observed that boys and girls now respect each other more. For example, boys no longer shout at or give negative comments when seeing girls play rugby. They cheer them instead.”

“Boys and girls are also seen sharing responsibilities off the field. The boys sweep the classroom, cleaning the windows. Parents also said that their son started helping out with chores at home.”

For Lavenia, having the chance to be part of Get into Rugby PLUS is something that means a great deal to her. 

“It has helped me to speak up on issues affecting women and girls such as violence. I am an advocate for gender equality, especially in this male-dominated sport.”

“As a mother, it has also helped me, not only by providing income, but by raising my son with values, sport skills and life skills that will enable him to become a good player, son, friend and in the future to be a successful and humble man.”

Story of Emelina

Unaisi Vakarewa is a proud mother to 13-year-old Emelina. Before Emelina joined Get into Rugby PLUS as a player in 2019, Unaisi said her daughter was shy, never hung out with others, and had always kept to herself.  But joining transformed Emelina in so many ways.

By becoming a player, Emelina got opportunities to spend time playing rugby and learning life skills with other children. Emelina started to open up, socialising more with her friends. She became more confident and her communications skills improved.

Unaisi said she is very happy about the changes in her daughter. Unaisi also acknowledged how life skills learning has made a great impact on Emelina. She learned skills on how to solve problems and to make decisions for herself. Emelia has become more independent. Unaisi hopes Get into Rugby PLUS can be expanded to more schools so that more children can have the same opportunities that her daughter is having, to play and to be empowered to become a future leader. 

The story was developed from content provided by Oceania Rugby and Fiji Rugby Union.

Oceania Rugby is one of six regional associations of World Rugby, responsible for representing the interests of its Members. Oceania Rugby’s sport for development programs contribute to achieving gender equality, reducing inequality, and ending violence against women and children, and are built around the rugby values

Fiji Rugby Union was established in 1913 and is the governing body for rugby union in Fiji. Fiji Rugby Union is a full member of Oceania Rugby and became affiliated World Rugby in 1987.

To learn more about Get into Rugby PLUS, click here.

Today marks one year since Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji, causing massive devastation to local communities. The strongest tropical cyclone to hit the country and the South Pacific Basin in recorded history, it flattened entire villages in its wake.

A year on and families affected by this disaster are slowly returning to normal life. Although the great outpouring of support from the international community greatly assisted with immediate response efforts in the Pacific nation, the road to recovery post-disaster is arduous and fraught with its share of challenges.

In Fiji, ChildFund Australia partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help children and families recover from the worst impacts of the disaster. During the emergency phase, over 7,000 vulnerable families were provided with emergency shelter kits to repair damaged homes.

Now, efforts are supporting the long-term recovery and rehabilitation of communities. This includes the reconstruction of water supply and sanitation systems in 100 communities where existing supplies were destroyed. The construction of disaster resilient housing is also well under way, with 106 new homes now constructed, and another 200 homes in the planning process.

Safe residences are vital for families in Fiji, where it is estimated that around 140,000 people live in substandard housing conditions. Unfortunately, when a cyclone like Winston occurs, these homes offer little protection and it is these vulnerable groups who are usually hit the hardest. Not only are homes destroyed, but livelihoods and essential infrastructure.

Taito and his family are one of the lucky ones. Having previously resided in a makeshift home cobbled together from scrap iron and tarpaulin, Taito’s family partnered with Habitat to build a new home, which only a month later was put to the test when Cyclone Winston hit. The house remains standing today.

Evidence shows that children are particularly vulnerable when disasters strike. Reducing environmental risks is now recognised as a critical child protection issue, particularly in developing countries, like Fiji, where people are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events. The work of ChildFund and other non government organisations is increasingly turning to disaster risk reduction – building community capacity to cope with disasters and conflicts, and providing relief when disasters strike, so that children are safer and communities are more resilient in the face of natural, political or economic crisis.

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said: “While we can’t stop disasters from happening, we can reduce their impact by taking such precautionary steps before they occur.”

“The implementation of disaster risk reduction measures is vital if communities are to have the skills and knowledge to minimise injury and loss during an emergency. By working in partnership with Habitat, we have not only been able to help children and families during the emergency phase, but can help protect them against severe weather events in the future.”