Results released this week by Oceania Rugby and UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office’s sport-for-development programme, Get Into Rugby PLUS Fiji (GIR PLUS), shows transformative changes among players, coaches and for rugby more broadly, when it comes to gender equality and ending violence against women and girls.

Data shows an overwhelming majority of the 332 young players aged 10-14 years (170 girls, 162 boys) in 13 schools across Fiji, have said or done something in the last six months to help girls and boys have equal respect. Their actions include: 1) encouraging girls to play rugby (85%); 2) reduced negative peer pressure (80%); and 3) standing up for friends being bullied (83%).

There were important shifts in the attitudes of players towards women’s and girls’ participation in rugby; women as leaders; capability of female coaches in comparison to male coaches; response to peer pressure and sexual harassment; understanding safe, healthy and respectful relationships and different forms of violence.

By the end of the programme in 2019, over 93% of girls and 97% of boys knew of a place or person near their home or school where they can go to report violence or abuse – such as their GIR PLUS coach, Child Helpline, Police or the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (also a partner). Over 95% of players selected their GIR PLUS coach as someone they can disclose experience of violence to, demonstrating the strong trust coaches have built with their teams and that GIR PLUS players have an avenue for support that other youth may not identify nor have.

The programme is co-funded by Oceania Rugby, through Rugby Australia and the Australian Government’s Pacific Sports Partnerships, and by UN Women Fiji MCO, 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.

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