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The inaugural 2021 Women in League Conference sponsored by DFAT’s TeamUp program is currently underway in Nadi. The two-day conference, which is the first to be held for Fijian women and girls in the sport of rugby league, was officially opened by FNRL Chairman Rear Admiral (Rtd) Viliame Naupoto.

The conference which is split in two events will also be held in Suva for participants from the south, east and central regions on Friday 16 and Saturday 17th December next week.

In opening the western women’s conference, FNRL Chairman Viliame Naupoto’s message was “never giving up”, sharing to the delight of participants similar new experiences across his career in the civil service. Mr Naupoto also highlighted the opportunity for women participants to be agents for change and contribute positively to the sport.

‘Taking up a new role, learning a new skill has its own challenges, you’ll notice that you will find new things that challenge you, but don’t give up in the process’.

“‘If you’re new to rugby league you’ll have many opportunities for participation regardless of who you are; with our shared value of respect, you can go far in life. Life is a journey of self discovery, there is always this opportunity to know more about yourself and your capabilities in the process of learning about something new. We are eager to see women continue to contribute to the sport and today is the start of that journey for some of you and the society you represent.” Mr Naupoto said.

FNRL’s Acting Chief Executive Don Natabe said that the big goal that FNRL has for rugby league is to be the most attractive sport to participate in Fiji. “While we aim to reach a new and diverse audience for the game, we are mindful of the different needs of all rugby league participants, particularly women, children and vulnerable persons. Having annual meetings to engage female participants of rugby league helps us understand their needs and how women can effectively participate across the game. We want rugby league to be attractive, and this conference is an opportunity to have women’s voices heard and understand how we can appeal to more women & girl participants.”

NRL in-Country Manager Ema Levaci said, “On behalf of the NRL we are grateful to work side by side with the FNRL to facilitate and conduct such events like the Women’s Rugby League Participation Conference. Women’s engagement in sports is an area that we have both identified is in need of a major boost and more attention and are fortunate that we have stakeholders, sponsors and partners that share the same passion. Today was a real blessing to witness the interest of women in the western division. Although we had hoped for more numbers, I am grateful for the women that were able to make it today. From here we only hope we can inspire and motivate the next generation to take up the courage to attend future Rugby League events, workshops and even local competitions. It is a stepping stone towards the right direction and I am very excited and hopeful about the future of Women’s Rugby League in Fiji and the Pacific and to witness the Fii Bulikula lift the Women’s World Cup one Day.”

14 participants from the Sigatoka, Nadi, Lautoka and Ba regions represented growing interests from communities aiming to register clubs in the 2022 women’s club competition. Participant Ms Asinate Rokovaki said” I enjoyed this morning session. I find it to be very interesting to learn that women have the passion to develop in sports, not only as a player but in other career platforms, like being a manager, coaches, media and marketing. Another participant Ms. Qivi Seavula, found the morning session to be very educational and was very thankful to FNRL and NRL for bringing the meeting platform to the west. She said the conference inspired her to take on a career in sport not only as a player. Ms. Seavula was particularly interested in the First Aid Session as participants got to learn how to perform the correct CPR procedure.

The conference creates awareness on how women & girls can participate in the sport and highlights “extraordinary women trailblazers” who work to promote and empower the rights, roles, opportunities and protections for women and girls.

The theme for the 2-day workshop is “Power for Change” with agenda topics covering policies protecting women, children & vulnerable people in rugby league, 2022 women’s activities, including participation pathways in match officiating, playing and technical roles. Speakers included Joana Lester and Roshika Deo from Team Up.

The Women’s Rugby League Participation Conference is made possible through the Australian Government’s Team Up Funding, in partnership with the National Rugby League Fiji and Fiji National Rugby League.