An inspirational group of female leaders came together in Nadi, Fiji last week for the Oceania Women in Rugby Network Forum 2024.

Funded by PacificAus Sports, as part of the Oceania Rise Rugby Project, and World Rugby, the forum took place between 20-23 March and gave participants from across the region opportunities for professional development and to contribute to Oceania Rugby’s strategic plans.

Building on the experiences of the 19 delegates, who included four Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership Programme alumni, workshops held at the forum covered governance, participation, pathways and competitions, workforce development, investments and sponsorship, and visibility and engagement.

Each delegate was required to create an action plan for use within their own union. The key area on which this was focused was determined by the ‘Women in Rugby Scorecard’ which the participants completed prior to arrival in Fiji.

Collaboratively, the 19 women came together to discuss how the region can use the Olympic Games Paris 2024 to drive female participation. The results of these sessions will be presented to the Oceania Rugby board.

“One of the key takeaways, I think, is the power of the collective,” Oceania Rugby Women’s Rugby Project Officer, Dr Teeny Aiken said.

“It was absolutely phenomenal to see the collaboration, the brainstorming, the sharing and the relationships that were built, and that will continue.

“Part of the reason these programmes came about was that we found women in these roles are quite isolated in their own individual regions and organisations and unions and so they were all facing similar challenges, similar experiences.

“We were seeing poor retention rates of women making their way into these roles and then leaving. And being able to see the bonds that were happening from people having their shared experiences or saying, ‘I've had this challenge, this was our approach, and these were successes from it’ and someone seeing that and saying, ‘We've never thought of that’ I think was really amazing.

“Seeing that collective [proved] what can happen through the power of being able to bring women together across the region.”

On the final day of the forum, the delegates were taken to watch the Super Rugby Pacific-Super Rugby Women’s double header between the Drua and the Waratahs at Churchill Park.

This gave the participants an opportunity to solidify the relationships they had built over the previous three days in a less formal setting.

Papua New Guinea Rugby Football Union board member Matilda Tigilai was grateful for the opportunity to compare experiences with women from across the region.

“I was blessed to be part of [the forum with] women who are trailblazers in their own countries,” she said.

“They might not have the same problems that I have but they face challenges as well in their own countries.

“To know that and at the same time to just be bonding and helping each other … I’m just blessed to have been part of it.”