One year on from the launch of World Rugby’s ‘Try And Stop Us’ campaign, the women at its heart continue to have a positive impact on the game.
Last month, Rugby India hosted an online ‘Live Chat’ between India women’s captain Vahbiz Bharucha and ‘Unstoppable’ Black Ferns star Stacey Fluhler (née Waaka).
During the call, which was organised in conjunction with WINS (Women In Sports India), Fluhler was surprised by her fellow ambassador, Sweta Shahi and her Black Ferns team-mate and close friend, Theresa Fitzpatrick as she chatted about life in the game.
India has experienced rapid growth in female participation in rugby over the past decade and Shahi’s appearance in the ‘Try And Stop Us’ campaign has only aided that.
According to Rugby India, female participation in the country is maintained at a minimum of 40 per cent with a target to get to 50 per cent.
To that aim, all tournaments, events and programmes are gender inclusive, while a committee has been formed to oversee the women’s game and there is a drive to increase female representation at the governance and managerial level.
Such initiatives suggest there is an audience for the women’s game in the country, an assertion which is borne out by the success of the Live Chat with Fluhler.
The video, which was posted across Rugby India’s social media channels, reached more than 10,000 people and resulted in over 1,500 engagements. The governing body has subsequently launched an online forum, ‘No Woman, No TRY’, which showcases female talent.
Rugby India president Mahesh Mathai, meanwhile, has been appointed to the Indian Olympic Association’s Women in Sport Committee for 2020-21.
“Women’s rugby in India has really come a long way over the last decade — from humble beginnings and just a handful of players back in 2009 to today, involvement of women in rugby being over 40 per cent in all aspects of the sport,” Rugby India CEO Nasser Hussain said.
“The response towards women’s rugby has been overwhelming and this unprecedented growth puts to rest all the stereotypes and stigmas associated with women in India and their involvement in sport, in particular a contact sport.”
Following her chat with Fluhler, Shahi — with Bharucha acting as her interpreter — appeared on episode three of Asia Rugby Live alongside fellow ‘Unstoppables’ Ana Aziz and Nahid Biyarjomandi.
Asia Rugby’s weekly YouTube talk show dedicated the episode to the continent’s ambassadors, with the trio discussing life since the campaign launch and their hopes for the future with host Rod Syed Latif.
According to Asia Rugby, it was watched more than 20,000 times across all social media channels as it reached 123,055 people as of Friday. The subsequent episode of the show, which featured four of the continent's World Rugby Women's Executive Leadership Scholarship recipients, was even more successful, garnering a social reach of 124,439.
“Rugby is a sport for all and we, at Rugby India, are firm believers of this and have always advocated gender equality and inclusion in all our initiatives,” Hussain added.
“The World Rugby 'Unstoppable' campaign which featured India's very own Sweta Shahi, has not only inspired girls and women across Asia and India to take up the sport, but has also provided a great platform to showcase and highlight the inspiring stories of these girls and women who have had to overcome so much to be where they are today.
“They are in their own right truly #Unstoppable!”