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Avi’i Fa’alupega from the Get into Rugby PLUS program in Samoa / Team Up

Rugby union in Samoa

Tofilau Avi’i Fa’alupega is the development officer for women’s rugby union at Lakapi Samoa and works on the Team Up-supported Get into Rugby PLUS program, which is delivered in partnership by Lakapi Samoa, Oceania Rugby, Rugby Australia, UN Women and ChildFund Rugby. 

The program embeds life skills learning with rugby union to promote positive behaviour, gender equality, and prevent violence against women, girls and boys.

Aside from being a development officer, Avi’i is also the first-ever certified international woman rugby union referee from Samoa and has been involved in several international and local rugby union and sevens tournaments. Through her experiences in overcoming challenges, she strongly believes that more women can achieve success in and through sport.  

“Being involved in the Get into Rugby PLUS program has been an opportunity to challenge the stereotype that rugby union is only for boys and men.

"The core priority of this initiative is to provide more opportunities for women and girls to get involved in all aspects of the sport,” Avi’i said.

“Changing people’s mindset around women’s involvement in rugby union is very challenging and this can be due to the physicality of the game and, of course, our culture. This also becomes challenging when other women don’t agree. 

“These are obstacles that I have had to overcome and it’s fulfilling that, through my work in the program and being a professional referee, I am able to help break barriers and convince more people that women can also succeed in rugby union, if given the opportunities.”

According to the national coordinator for Get into Rugby PLUS in Samoa, Toluiva Keneti, Avi’i has been an integral part of the program and by being a trailblazer has also become an inspiration to young girls and women who are looking to follow their sporting dreams. 

“Avi’i is one of the most incredible women that I have crossed paths with. She’s multitalented, not just as an international referee but she’s also an expert in photography and graphics. She dedicates most of her time to engaging with young girls and women. She even started her own women’s sports club two years ago. 

“Avi’i has inspired a lot of young girls, not only in Samoa but throughout the Pacific, and I believe that she will carry this legacy into the future as she is a hero breaking barriers to achieve her goals, like becoming the first ever female international referee from Samoa. 

“It is an inspiring story, and I believe that through her passion and influence she will be able to transform many more lives, especially the younger generation across the Pacific.”

Avi'i Fa'alupega was the first certified international woman rugby union referee from Samoa / Lakapi Samoa
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