Causes Week 2020: Rugby Gives Back to empower teenage girls

Causes Week runs this year from Dec 20 to 25. It shines a light on various individuals and groups, and shows how they are making a difference through their chosen causes within the community.

Project Pari was started by the Zonta Club of Singapore in 2008 to help secondary school girls from underprivileged backgrounds. PHOTO: ZONTA CLUB OF SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - For over a decade, teenage girls involved in Project Pari have learnt how to code, manage their finances and even take part in an outdoor trek.

Next year, 100 young women from four secondary schools will be able to pick up a new sport, tag rugby, courtesy of its partnership with the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU). Tag rugby is a non-contact version of rugby in which each player wears a belt that has two velcro tags attached to it.

Started by the Zonta Club of Singapore - a society that seeks to empower and elevate the status of women - in 2008, Project Pari aims to empower girls from lower-income families and help them learn useful skills beyond the classroom. Each beneficiary receives a monthly $50 allowance and can participate in six activities, including an outdoor trek and two workshops teaching different life skills.

The sports workshop next year is a first for the organisation and its vice-president Lynnette Ee told The Straits Times that the initiative will be in line with the club's mission of exposing its beneficiaries to as many things as possible.

"Besides learning about the sport, you learn about teamwork and building relationships with each other. Our primary objective is to get them out of their zone of comfort as much as possible, which is important to empower a person."

Slated to start in the first quarter of next year, the tag rugby sessions by the SRU will be taught by coaches and players from the national women's team. The national sports association is also aiming to raise $100,000 for Project Pari, with $10,000 raised so far through a virtual workout led by national women's rugby player Chong Hui Min for employees of Dell Technologies.

SRU's support for Project Pari is part of its Rugby Gives Back initiative and is done in collaboration with social enterprise Elpis @ Hideout.

Douglas Danapal, SRU's head of commercial, public relations and marketing, said the weekly sessions could also inspire and encourage the girls to play the sport competitively.

He said: "Our main focus will be to raise funds first then rugby will come in later when we're allowed to do so. Hopefully some of them will find rugby fun and continue to play rugby by joining clubs and hopefully one day they can be part of the national team.

"It's also about showing that rugby is not just a man's sport and there are a lot of female athletes playing who have also gone on to take roles in sports."

SRU's fundraising and commercial executive Mindy Chai, who is coordinating the project, added that the rugby sessions will help them "build confidence and bonds with each other so they can feel less alone and know that there's someone there for them".

Ee believes that the tag rugby sessions will be a hit among the girls and will consider introducing adding more sports to their programmes in the future.

She added: "I hope through this, the girls will start to like the sport and influence their friends to start appreciating rugby. It's taking baby steps and slowly more women will get involved in the game.

Interested donors can visit this website for more information.

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