Fatma El-kindiy admits she first contacted the Tanzania Rugby Union (TRU) because she “didn’t have anything else to do” when she moved to the country last year.
El-kindiy had originally visited Tanzania to see her mother but relocated permanently in June 2021 and was keen to contribute to its rugby community as she had done in Botswana.
Having been introduced to rugby in Botswana in 2015, El-kindiy became an advocate for the benefits the oval-ball game could provide young women and girls.
With the help of Gorata Kgathi, she devised a programme, ‘A Try for Change’, to help encourage more women and young girls in the country to pick up a rugby ball.
The success of the programme contributed to El-kindiy becoming a Rugby Africa ‘Unstoppable’ in October 2020, and when she moved to Dar es Salaam the following year she was keen to have a similar impact on female participation in Tanzania.
She now has a new goal: to field Tanzania’s first women’s national team.
“When I came to Tanzania I approached [the TRU],” El-kindiy told World Rugby.
“I didn't have anything else to do, so I approached them and I told them what I had done in Botswana, what I could do to help them in Tanzania and that's what happened.
“They were very happy to have me on board.”
She added: “Our goal for the older ones is to have a national team, the first national team. I’m hoping to be able to guide and help them.
“That would be magnificent for us, it would be magnificent for Tanzania. They’re not on the rugby map right now, so for them to participate in an international game would be marvellous.”
A new challenge
According to El-kindiy rugby is booming in popularity in Tanzania, however, so far that rise has only been apparent in male playing numbers.
The TRU had struggled to grow interest in female participation and so when they received the phone call from El-kindiy, they were only too happy to accept her offer of help.
She has since become head of development for women’s rugby and set about increasing opportunities for and interest in women playing the game.
“It was a challenge to get the girls until we got to a place called Ukonga,” El-kindiy admitted.
In Ukonga, with the help of coach Denis Lipiki, El-kindiy has found a growing group of women who are keen to learn how to play the game.
From an initial squad of seven, El-kindiy and Lipiki now put on training sessions for 25 young women up to three times a week.
The majority of these new players are aged between 18 and 20, however, El-kindiy says there is one “determined” squad member who is only 13.
She is currently in the process of organising a touch tournament for the women to play in and is confident of attracting players to it from across Tanzania.
Requests have been sent to men’s clubs around the country in the hope that they will continue to offer those women opportunities to play beyond the tournament.
Finding new players from more regions in Tanzania will only help El-kindiy in her aim to put together a truly representative women’s national team.
“We have already spoken to people from other regions; Moshi, Arusha, Tanga, Zanzibar,” she explained.
“They have clubs there, men's clubs, and we have asked them to help us also get the women into those clubs.
“So, they had to see what we were doing with Ukonga first and when they understood that, ‘oh, this is how we can actually get women to play' they're now also getting the women from all the other regions so that we have one national team from everywhere.”
Beyond that, El-kindiy is also planning to roll out ‘A Try for Change’ in Tanzania and hopes to convince schools to offer girls an opportunity to play as part of their curriculums.
El-kindiy also hopes to set up visits to Tanzania for educators, so that her new players can be trained up in coaching, refereeing and first aid.
Given the right support, she believes the potential for the women’s game in Tanzania is “huge”.
“When you see their determination, 6am they’re on the field – they prefer the 6am session – and when schools are closed, they do Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Three times a week [and] the numbers keep growing,” El-kindiy said.
“For them to wear the national flag for the first time, that's something that means a lot to them, to carry the Tanzanian flag up high.”