SUVA, Fiji—The Fiji Women’s Crisis Center has signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the National Rugby League and the Fiji National Rugby League to help them run a program that uses the sport’s platform to prevent and end violence against women.
NRL’s Voice Against Violence program, first launched in Australia, will be implemented in Fiji and the Pacific over the coming months, with players, officials and administrators receiving training on gender, violence against women and human rights.
FWCC coordinator Shamima Ali said the organization is constantly looking for opportunities to work on the elimination of violence against women and using sport was an ideal way to target attitudinal and behavior change among young people.
“NRL works with young people and one of the best global prevention strategies is working with young people, particularly young men,” Ali said. “This is the first time that we’ve had a formal arrangement and NRL has a program I see a lot of potential in.”
Ellen Beale, NRL’s general manager of community programs, said: “It is Rugby League’s stance that violence against women and children is never acceptable.
“Our key messages are stand up, speak out and take action to contribute to the prevention of violence against women and children.
“Standing up for us is all about acknowledging that there is a serious issue in Australia, in Fiji, in the Pacific and globally. It’s not an issue that is just affecting one particular community; it’s affecting all of us and we’ve got a real opportunity to stand up and acknowledge that. We’ve also got an opportunity to speak out.”
Ruan Sims, the Jillaroos captain, who has Fijian heritage and is sister to the Sims brothers who played for the Fiji Bati, will help roll out the Voice Against Violence program in the Pacific.
“Rugby League, I believe, has a very powerful voice and we as rugby league players have a social responsibility to use that voice in the right way,” Sims said.
“We can go to junior rugby league clubs and we can actually influence this next generation coming through. We can empower them regarding domestic violence. It’s a social responsibility that I believe we have. It’s a global issue but we can make a difference in our own backyard.
“With our slogan, ‘stand up, speak out and talk action,’ we empower them to do all these steps in a safe manner for themselves and all the people involved. It’s about being socially responsible and using the voice that we have to bring about social change.”
John Jewiss, NRL’s Fiji in-country manager, acknowledges the FWCC as the specialists in the area of ending violence against women, saying it was important that the messages being sent out through the Voice Against Violence program were consistent.
FNRL chief executive Timoci Naleba said such initiatives in sports bodies were “most effective” and he was grateful to NRL and FWCC for partnering with them to implement it.
The FWCC will work with the NRL to incorporate local culture and context into the VAV program over the coming months.