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Asia: Rugby challenging gender stereotypes

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[FYI] "Gender Equality and Women's Rugby"

The main question is, "Is there such a thing at all?". The answer is of course NO. This is one of the biggest obstacles for the development of the women's game worldwide. The perfect example is the team from Tukkies. Despite their performances even on the international stage, they receive no support from the University rugby club, or from the Blue Bulls Rugby union. Even after finishing in the top four (official placing of equal third) in the International Invitational Women's competition in Dubai in 2009, their budget is still the same as last year, ZERO. The only positive was that the University (not the University Sports Club), contributed a portion of the costs to allow the players to go to Dubai. (Even the US national women's team had to contribute to their own air-fares!)

The women put in a lot of work and they don't get rewarded for their efforts. In 2009 the Tuks ladies team started practice in early January. The girls had practice session of one and a half hours each, two or three times a week up to the beginning of December and none of that was rewarded the unions or the clubs. At the same time they also have no privileges regarding gymnasium work and it is only a few that can afford a gym membership. Which also means that the time they spend on the training pitch must include all aspects of conditioning, skills, strategy, etc. While these girls have to work to be able to live.

Every year the girls also hear the same empty promises from the union, that "conditions will change", that they "will look after the players", that they "will get something in return for the efforts they put in". But the sad truth is clearly evident in the "Blue Bulls Strategic Plan - 2009-2013", as taken "as is" from their website that there is no workable plan to actually address the inequality. The saddest part of this is that this "strategic plan" is supposed to be for the period up to 2013, which means we can expect absolutely no changes up to then. It is also clear that women are excluded from the "high performance group" and the only functioning high performance group in women's rugby is actually run and funded by the coaches of the Tukkies Women's team in their personal capacity. The coaches pay out of their own pockets for the players transport to and from practices. The coaches pay for other expenses that include training kit and equipment, and transport cost to and from events. If they are lucky the Tukkies women's team receive ONE set of jerseys from the club in a year.

At the same time the IRB and national sporting bodies are making a huge hoo-haa about the sevens game being included in the Olympic Games in 2016, they appear to do very little to promote the women's game. In the Las Vegas International women's event, the women's games are being played on a pitch to the side and only the final is played on the main ground! Even in Dubai, in the UAE, which is supposed to be a predominantly Islamic nation, the women get more exposure on the main pitch.

What is also very evident, is the general negative vibe from the men at the union and club after the achievements of the Tuks Ladies team. The fact that the team was able to perform, as a club team on the international stage, with a ZERO budget appears to be a huge problem in some quarters. What was actually amazing was the exact opposite and positive responses from the international men's sevens teams in Dubai, where positive feedback came from the South African and the Fiji men's teams.

So, we have to ask, "where is the problem then?". As it appears that the public and the men's players accept the participation of women readily. Why are the women then struggling to find support from the administrators. Does the problem lie with the clubs, or the provincial unions, or is it with the national union, or could the problem start at the top, with the IRB? At this stage however there is a lot of finger pointing, but not one single body prepared to take the responsibility. The club blames the union, the union blames the club and the national body, etc, etc... Maybe we should let an "Equality Court" decide?

(taken from the website of a top women's rugby university team (Tukkies) in South Africa)

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