Last Friday, players representing Uganda, Kenya and Zambia put their on-pitch rivalries to one side to participate in the Women in Rugby Leadership Workshop in Kampala.
Held on the sidelines of the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup Pool B tournament, which concluded at Wankulukuku Stadium on Wednesday, the workshop was the brainchild of Regina Lunyolo.
Rugby Africa Women’s Advisory Committee member Lunyolo first had the idea for the event in 2019, while enrolled on the Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme, as a means to inspire current female players to “think beyond the try line”.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic delayed her plans but organising the Pool B campaign in Kampala provided an opportunity to put them into practice.
“I just kept saying, if I get the opportunity, we should be able to pass on our skills to the young girls, share experiences and just to be able to build a capacity for the girls and women off the pitch,” Lunyolo told World Rugby.
“So, it's not just [that] we have a tournament, and everybody goes home. It should be more than a tournament, it should have more value, especially for such a big event.
“We should be able to offer more value for our girls and women in rugby.”
She added: “I thought this was a grand opportunity that we have three countries coming together and they have players with varied experiences, they have administrators with very diverse views and experiences and ideas.
“So, I thought it was a good opportunity for us to get them together and do something like what we did. It's been my passion, especially since I did the executive leadership training.”
Each of the three nations competing in Pool B sent a delegation of players and coaching staff to the workshop, where they were treated to a keynote address from Beatrice Ayikoru, the General Secretary of the Ugandan Olympic Committee.
Ayikoru’s speech was followed by three panel discussions, the last of which featured contributions from Uganda vice-captain Charlotte Mudoola and Kenya captain Peruse Muyuka.
Lunyolo was happy with how the workshop went and hopes it can become an annual event, with multiple occurrences each year due to the amount of content she would like to cover.
Referring to her time on the Women in Rugby Leadership Programme, Lunyolo described the workshop as a “legacy of the scholarship”.
It was through the programme that she travelled to New Zealand and Fiji in 2020, attending the Oceania Rugby Women’s Leadership Workshop.
“Travelling to New Zealand, to Fiji to interact with a diverse group of powerful women in sport, especially in rugby, was an eye-opener for me,” Lunyolo said.
“It was very inspirational when I met Cathy Wong… she's phenomenal. So, meeting that calibre of woman, Nicki Nicol from New Zealand, it was just an eye-opener for me.
“The workshop that we had in Oceania, I think it was the first of its kind that I attended, and I got very inspired to say, when I get back home, these are things that we have to benchmark well and get our women in the same space.
“You know, talk about what it is that we go through, address our challenges, strategise for the future and so, the scholarship has been such a powerful tool for me to be able to get into spaces, to network, to share experiences, to even mentor young girls and women. Because I believe every person needs a cheerleader.”