At the end of a month-long celebration of women’s involvement in rugby in Samoa, the individuals who have helped to push back gender barriers through their involvement in the sport had their contributions officially recognised at a certification ceremony.
The Samoan Rugby Union has made a concerted effort to encourage participation in rugby, not only in a playing sense but also with supporting roles such as coaching, match officials, first aid attendants, physios and in strength and conditioning.
All those in attendance in Sogi, on the outskirts of the capital city of Apia, were certified in one of those crucial fields and got to meet the guest of honour, Nynette Sass, Samoa’s Chef de Mission at last year’s Pacific Games.
“The certification ceremony was about rewarding the certified people who are actively working in the community as well as creating an awareness among female players about this pathway, and that rugby can provide for them in other ways than playing,” said Samoa Rugby Union’s women’s development officer, Avii Faalupega.
Former Manusina sevens and 15s player, Seifono Misili, was one of those to receive her award on a night when women’s rugby in Samoa took another positive step forward.
Misili has successfully transitioned into coaching and it is hoped more will follow suit in taking on alternative roles.
“I want to motivate other girls to believe in themselves that they can make it to the Manusina and say to them, ‘If I can do it, you can do it’,” Misili said.
“I would challenge and encourage them to join and be part of women’s rugby to foster their skills to make their dreams come true.
“It is a great opportunity to be part of the game and stay active in rugby. I would encourage the girls that there is a pathway into coaching, First Aid in Rugby (FAIR) and match officiating if they couldn’t make the Manusina team.”
Recently World Rugby heard from Women’s Executive Leadership scholarship recipient, Beth Onesemo about how traditional attitudes around women’s rugby were becoming less prevalent in her homeland.
And Faalupega is equally encouraged that times are changing for the better in Samoa.
“From my perspective as a women’s development officer, there have been a lot of changes,” she said.
“Traditionally with rugby in Samoa, the attitude, especially with parents, is still that daughters should stay at home, do the housework, look after the elderly and nurture the kids.
“But by giving opportunities to all these women to participate in rugby in the community, it has changed the mindset of people.
“Having women involved in rugby should be seen as normal, like for the boys.”