World Rugby paves the way for future leaders in rugby with 12 new Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarships awarded

On International Women’s Day, World Rugby reconfirmed its commitment and investment into the acceleration of women in leadership positions in rugby through its transformational World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship programme, with 12 new recipients identified across the globe for 2021.

Aligned to #IWD2021’s theme of #ChooseToChallenge, World Rugby has invested £490,000 in the Executive Leadership Scholarships since the programme’s inception in 2018, with successful candidates receiving a £10,000 grant to support professional development. In addition, recipients benefit from informal mentoring and are connected with inspirational leaders, both male and female, from the wider global rugby family.

A key component of World Rugby’s ambitious strategic plan to accelerate the global development of women in rugby, 2017-25, the Executive Leadership Scholarship programme directly delivers against the core pillar to develop inspirational leadership on and off the field.

Initially a two-year initiative, the programme has been so successful it is now entering its fourth year, with 37 recipients worldwide already benefitting from scholarships.

The programme is open to women in rugby who are currently involved at governance or senior management level or have the potential to be a senior manager or union/regional association board member in the sport within two years.

World Rugby Chair, Sir Bill Beaumont, said; “On International Women’s Day 2021 we are proud to be announcing 12 new recipients of our transformational Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship programme. We are fully committed to advancing women in leadership positions in rugby, and this is a key initiative that will have a significant impact on the future growth of our sport.

“Our 2021 recipients will follow in the impactful strides of the programme’s alumni, who have progressed to achieve great things as leaders in our sport. I would like to congratulate all of our Executive Leadership Scholarship recipients for 2021.”

2021 World Rugby Executive Leadership Scholarship recipients

Ana Tuiketei (Fiji) – Judicial Officer, Fiji Rugby and Oceania Rugby

Lanna Assaigo-Kami (Papua New Guinea) – Papua New Guinea Rugby Union legal consultant and volunteer, board member of a Coalition of Change NGO

Annabel Kehoe (Canada) – Chief Executive Officer, British Columbia Rugby Union, Chair of the National Return to Play Working Group of Rugby Canada

Meaghan Howat (Canada) – Board Member of Rugby Canada

Abigail Mnikwa (Zimbabwe) – Zimbabwe Rugby Union board member, Chair of Zimbabwe Women’s Rugby Committee

Peris Mukoko (Kenya) – Board Member at the Kenya Rugby Union

Deuyenit Valenciano Cascante (Costa Rica) – Women’s Development Officer for Costa Rican Rugby Federation, member of the Central American Women’s Rugby Committee

Natalia Diaz (Argentina) – Coach in Women’s High Performance in UAR, part of the Argentine national women’s team staff

Hana Schlangerová (Czechia) – Czech Board Member and Technical Committee and Chair of Women’s Rugby Committee

Rebecca Davies (England) – RFU Constituent Body and Club Development Sub-Committee member, Chairperson of Club Development in Staffordshire RFU

Nahid Biyarjomandi (Iran) – Asia Rugby Exco member and first deputy of Asia Women’s Advisory Committee, Board member and Head of Development Committee of Iran Rugby

Sarah Abd Elbaki (Syria) – Head of Women’s Rugby Development in Syria, member of Asia Rugby Competitions committee, Advisory Board Member for the Girls’ Rugby Club (GRC)

Women’s Advisory Committee Chair, Serge Simon, said; “Through the Executive Leadership Scholarship programme, the landscape of leaders within rugby is evolving, with more women moving into decision-making and leadership positions. We are committed to ensuring that women across the world have equal opportunities at all levels of the game. Congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients.”

World Rugby General Manager of Women’s Rugby, Katie Sadleir, said; “One of the real success stories of the Executive Leadership Scholarships is not only how the programme has proven it can propel and accelerate women into leadership positions in rugby, but also the organic emergence of a connected, global network of leaders and future women in rugby leaders, where they can seek guidance, knowledge share and importantly celebrate professional successes, no matter how big or small. We are looking forward to working and supporting this year’s scholarship group as they continue with their professional development aspirations.”

Ana Tuiketei, one of just a handful of female World Rugby accredited Judicial Officers within the Oceania region, thanked her family, Fiji Rugby Union and Oceania Rugby for their support of her and their commitment to excellence.

“As a recipient, I am grateful to World Rugby for investing in women’s leadership in rugby through the Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship Programme. It is an honour to be named alongside other inspirational leaders and to be mentored by a global network of sports leaders through this program. It is an even greater honor to be placed in such distinguished ranks as those of the past honorees, all of whom have made important contributions to Sports and Rugby. I look forward to the exciting experience this program entails and mostly importantly contributing to my region as a leader.”

Lanna Assaigo-Kami sees a great irony in being awarded this opportunity from a sporting organisation stating she is by far one of the least sporty physical wonders in the world.  However, Her commitment to providing an opportunity for everyone to Papua New Guinea to get involved in rugby in a safe and enjoyable environment outweighs her skills on the field.

“I am overwhelmed with this honour and am excited to see this how far I can take PNG into the global arena in the plethora of areas that are covered behind the scenes. The game is not just centered on the field, there is a whole lot of work behind the scenes and I hope that what I learn is focused on building and supporting for a better environment for all players regardless of age, gender, religion and race.”

Previous World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipients from the Oceania Rugby region include:

Cate Sexton (New Zealand) – Head of Women’s Rugby, New Zealand Rugby

Vela Naucukidi (Fiji) – Women’s Development Manager, Fiji Rugby Union, Fijiana 7’s Team Manager, former President of the Fiji Women’s Rugby Union (2007-12) and current Secretary since 2013

Jane Schmitt (Australia) – Director and Board Member of Queensland Rugby Union

Cybele Druma (Papua New Guinea) – Former CEO of Papua New Guinea Rugby Football Union and President of the National Capital District Rugby Union

Beth Onesemo (Samoa) – former Board Member, Samoa Rugby Union

Nicki Nicol (New Zealand) – Chief Transformation Officer, New Zealand Rugby