Asia Rugby’s Safeguarding Working Group was launched in 2018 to provide advice and support to its member unions on best practice child safeguarding, in-line with UNICEF’s International Safeguards for Children in Sport.
The Safeguarding Working Group sits under Asia Rugby’s Player Welfare & Medical Committee. The formation of the Safeguarding Working Group shows Asia Rugby taking steps to ensure that plans for incremental growth of the game across the region take place in a safe environment.
Asia Rugby’s current Strategic Plan runs until 2020 and one of its key pillars is to “make rugby the choice sport of youth played by all genders, people of different shapes, sizes, ages and across every segment of society.” One of its pillars requires all unions to “adopt internationally recognized gender inclusion and safeguarding strategies.”
There are already a number of unions who have shown significant progress in both areas and the Working Group will build upon the experience of these unions and key lessons learned in order to provide support to other unions to be able to achieve positive progress to make their rugby activities a safe space for children. With the recent creation also of a Gender Inclusion Committee, the Regional Association is taking significant steps to also lead the way in gender inclusion in rugby.
“The importance of safeguarding can’t be underestimated. We’ve taken it on board and it is part of our strategic plan. All current and would-be new members must have a safeguarding policy for their rugby communities,” commented Ross Mitchell, Asia Rugby’s General Manager.
It is an exciting time for Asia Rugby with the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics set to be hosted in Japan in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Several participation and development initiatives are well underway with Asia 1 Million being Asia Rugby’s flagship project to recruit a million new players, coaches and officials by 2019.
Toward this goal, Asia Rugby is working in partnership with ChildFund, Women Win and World Rugby for the ChildFund Pass It Back program currently operating in Laos and the Philippines, where there are member unions, and in Vietnam through ChildFund Vietnam, with expansion plans set for the coming year.
The regional program uses tag rugby to deliver life skills education and works with more than 6,000 young people, 54% of whom are female.
Through the Pass It Back program, ChildFund has also been leading a safeguarding and gender inclusion in sport initiative in the 3 countries to develop and improve child safeguarding standards and strengthen institutional practice.
The lessons learnt through this initiative will be shared with Asia Rugby’s Safeguarding Working Group to disseminate to and support other member unions in preparing their own safeguarding policies and procedures.
“ChildFund Pass It Back focuses on creating a safe space for children to participate in sport, not just physical safety but importantly emotional safety, too,” commented ChildFund Pass It Back Regional Director Chris Mastaglio.
Ridzal Saat, Rugby Services Manager for Asia commented, “ChildFund comes from an area of expertise which we don’t have in sports. It means that our members know what they have to do. Safeguarding is not just about having a policy, it’s about how they actually implement that policy. Our unions need support, and safeguarding has become part of criteria for World Rugby membership so working with a partner who has expertise in this area really helps our member unions and us.”
The Hong Kong Rugby Union in particular has also taken steps to develop child safeguarding practice across its rugby community, with a range of community engagement initiatives and child safeguarding content built into coach training blocks. The lessons from Hong Kong’s experience also bring valuable examples and perspective to the Safeguarding Working Group
Through their efforts, ChildFund in Vietnam and the unions in Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong have emerged as safeguarding leaders in the region and their experiences will be instrumental to the Safeguarding Working Group’s work plan over the course of the year and in subsequent years, in order to work towards achieving strong institutional child safeguarding practice across rugby in Asia.
Using all of these lessons, the Working Group will be developing key support resources to enable Asia Rugby’s Player Welfare & Medical Committee to provide a strong template that can be applied to other development programs in the region to aid member unions to develop strong, relevant policy documents, which are contextualized to each individual country.
Importantly, the Working Group will also implement an action plan designed to support member unions to be able to provide evidence of application at all levels of their work. Subsequent workshops and trainings will follow at all levels of the game throughout the year, to ensure that personnel at different levels of each union are aware of their responsibilities to safeguard children.