Record Number of Women’s Teams Shift Gender Inequality to the Sideline

Fijiana Captain Ana Roqica and PNG Captain Joanna Lagona_Samoa Captain_Tahiti Captain_preview.Photo: SUPPLIED.

As the record number of eight women’s teams take to the field for the Oceania Sevens, they are playing to win, and to shift gender inequality to the sideline.

“We are currently rated in the top four in the world standings,” said Fijianas Rugby 7s captain Ana Roqica. “Ever since I started playing rugby, the crowd used to tell us that it’s a ‘men’s sport’… now they really love how the women have been playing rugby,” she said.

“Rugby is my passion. Growing up in my village in Tavua, I used to play rugby with the boys and I’ve grown to love rugby,” said Fijiana 7s player Rusila Nagasau adding “It’s that coconut tree on the jersey that makes us proud, as it’s not just about myself but my family and my country.”

Ana, Rusila and other women and men involved in the 2017 Oceania Rugby Sevens Championship, being held at the ANZ Stadium in Fiji from 10-11 November, are excited about the event’s emphasis on the importance of equal participation of women and men in rugby.

Oceania Rugby President Richard Sapias explained that involving women and girls, men and boys, more equally in rugby is central to the strategic goals of Oceania Rugby and also its new working partnership with UN Women, global champion for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

“For Oceania Rugby and World Rugby to work together with UN Women, through events such as the Oceania Sevens, presents an ideal opportunity to support women and girls in rugby, and to encourage their communities to support them, too,” Mr Sapias said.

“Everyone is committed to opening the door to women and girls in rugby, and we know there is more we can still achieve. Today we are making progress, and it’s great to see record numbers of women players, and an increase in female coaches, managers as well as workforce staff here at the 2017 Oceania Sevens,” he said.

Nicolas Burniat, UN Women’s Deputy Representative for the Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO) that works across 14 Pacific Island countries, said the Oceania Sevens is great example of how, “through sport, we can equal the playing field between women and men and girls and boys.”

“Promoting equal access in rugby for girls and boys, women and men is a key strategy to demonstrate that women and girls really can do anything, and to ‘equal the playing field’ both on and off the rugby arena,” he said.

“The power of sport to change mentalities should never be underestimated, especially here where sport is a vital part of Pacific communities and Pacific life,” said Mr Burniat.

“We look forward to working more with Oceania Rugby to assist rugby continue to create more opportunities for girls and women to get the same benefits from being players, coaches, officials and managers as everyone else.”

The Oceania Sevens has family-friendly ticket prices to also encourage more women, girls and their families to come enjoy the rugby competition.