Asia Rugby President Qais Al-Dhalai believes embracing gender equality at the decision-making level will make it easier to grow the women’s game on the continent.

Last month, Asia Rugby announced that female representation on its committees had increased to 30 per cent as it progresses towards a target of 40 per cent by the end of 2024.

Al-Dhalai has made the principles of equality, transparency and accountability key tenets of his presidency and he described the milestone as “crystal clear evidence that we are embracing gender equality”.

“It’s very important for us to showcase [to] the whole rugby industry and the world that Asia is embracing the inclusiveness of this sport,” he told World Rugby.

“It's very important for the sport itself, it's very important for the image of Asian rugby. 

“And, if you embrace gender equality in the administrative and decision-making body, it is really much easier to grow the sport within the female rugby community in Asia because you have decision-making females.

“There is a female making the decision, and then [it is] much easier to have this across all layers of the sport in the region. 

“That's why the Philippines is doing great when it comes to female rugby, Kazakhstan is doing great when it comes to female rugby. Because the decision-making layer is led by a female. 

“So, to us, male and female are the same. Don't tell me that a man is different than a woman, for me when it comes to sport, they should be and they must be the same. 

“And, that's what you are trying to do.”

Taking the lead

World Rugby Council member and Philippine Rugby Football Union President, Ada Milby has led Asia Rugby’s achievements in this area as the chair of its Women’s Advisory Committee.

Milby has spoken in the past about wanting to see a 50-50 split of male and female representation on committees, and says she is delighted to see the progress that has already been made.

“I'm ecstatic that we're at 30 per cent on our committees,” she said. 

“I think Asia has often taken the lead in a lot of these spaces when it comes to making sure that we've got a lot of gender parity on leadership and governance, and so these committees are just another step towards realising that aspiration that we've had. 

“A couple of years back, I had made a statement that I wanted to see 50-50 per cent males, females across everything in Asia. And of course, this is, again, continuing to just be a step forward in that space.”

Milby added: “It demonstrates that we have a true commitment to change. 

“We have a true commitment to progressing that agenda and making sure that rugby is fair and equitable for all in our region.”

On-pitch success

Looking ahead, both Al-Dhalai and Milby are eager to help Asia Rugby reach its target of 40 per cent female representation on its committees by December, 2024.

On the pitch, meanwhile, Milby hopes that World Rugby’s launch of WXV, an annual three-tiered women’s competition model that will start in 2023, will provide a pathway for Asian nations into elite tournaments.

“We've got the global competition calendar now for the women's programme,” she added. 

“That in itself has already ignited some more interest across the region for more women's 15s programmes, which I think was the intent. 

“There is now a clear pathway for women's teams to get to that top level. And, it would be fantastic for us to just see more of those teams being represented not only in the global competition calendar, but also at Rugby World Cups.”

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