A Try for Change: Fatma El-kindiy and the Rise of Women’s Rugby in Tanzania

Fatma El-kindiy is a name synonymous with women’s rugby in East Africa. In just a year since taking on the role of Head of Women’s Development at the Tanzania Rugby Union, she has made significant strides in growing the sport and empowering young girls through the power of the oval ball.

El-kindiy’s journey with rugby began in 2015 in Southern Africa, in Botswana, where she played for the Gaborone Hogs RFC. It was more than just a sport; it was a catalyst for change. Witnessing the transformative power of rugby on girls and women, she developed the “A Try for Change” program, using rugby as a tool to teach courage and life skills to primary school girls. This initiative earned her recognition as a Rugby Africa ‘Unstoppable’ ambassador, further fueling her passion for advocacy.

In 2022, El-kindiy moved to Tanzania, determined to replicate her success. Appointed the first Head of Women’s Rugby, she faced the initial challenge of convincing parents and communities to embrace the sport for their daughters. Traditional views often saw sports as secondary to household duties, but El-kindiy persevered.

“It’s been only a year of ladies participating in rugby,” she acknowledges, “but the challenges are convincing parents to let their girl child play. Some feel sports are not as important as keeping a household.”

Undeterred, El-kindiy tackled this challenge head-on. She engaged with media, organized school activations, and utilized social media to showcase the sport’s positive impact. The results were encouraging.

“I have had many ladies signing up after they have watched other teams play,” she says, “They now believe that it’s not just a male dominating sport and they can participate too.”

El-kindiy’s vision extends beyond participation. She envisions a robust ecosystem for women’s rugby in Tanzania, with structured youth development programs, skilled coaches, state-of-the-art training facilities, and competitive leagues.

“I would create structured youth development programs focusing on skill development, fitness, and tactical understanding,” she outlines. “We are developing coaching clinics and workshops to enhance the skills of coaches at all levels.”

El-kindiy’s dedication has already borne fruit. Five active ladies’ rugby teams have been established across Tanzania, each with its unique story. The Arusha Rhinos, a long-standing team, are now seeing renewed competition with the emergence of Ukonga Queens in Dar es Salaam, Weedo Warriors (an NGO team promoting women’s empowerment), Kilimanjaro RFC, and a soon-to-be-formed team in Dar es Salaam.

These teams primarily play 7s rugby, but El-kindiy has plans to introduce 15s in the future, offering more avenues for competition and player development.

Talent identification and nurturing are crucial aspects of El-kindiy’s vision. She envisions a robust scouting system, attending local tournaments and school competitions to identify promising players. Collaborative efforts with schools and universities will create a supportive environment for student-athletes, while sports science programs will focus on mental resilience, nutrition, and injury prevention.

International exposure is another key element. El-kindiy aims to arrange friendly matches, tournaments, and exchange programs to broaden players’ horizons and expose them to diverse playing styles.

Community engagement is at the heart of El-kindiy’s strategy. She actively collaborates with local communities, schools, and grassroots organizations to build support and broaden the talent pool.

The Tanzania Rugby Union and World Rugby have been instrumental in providing support and encouragement. They have aided in securing sponsorships, promoting the sport, and providing equipment for teams.

El-kindiy is acutely aware of the need for financial sustainability. She actively seeks funding from various organizations, sponsorships, and even uses personal resources to support initiatives. Her long-term plan involves increasing awareness through effective marketing, media coverage, and partnerships to boost the sport’s visibility.

El-kindiy’s message to young girls and women in Tanzania is one of empowerment and self-belief:

“Embrace the strength within you, girls! In rugby, every tackle, scrum, and try is a testament to your resilience. Let the field be your canvas to paint a story of courage, teamwork, and unyielding spirit. Your journey in rugby is not just a game; it’s a celebration of your power and determination. Go out there, break barriers, and show the world the fierce athlete within you!”

Fatma El-kindiy’s story is one of dedication, passion, and unwavering belief in the transformative power of sport. Through her tireless efforts, she is not just building a strong future for women’s rugby in Tanzania but also empowering a generation of girls to reach their full potential, both on and off the field.The journey may still be in its early stages, but the impact of Fatma El-kindiy’s leadership is undeniable. Under her guidance, women’s rugby in Tanzania is no longer a faint whisper but a rising chorus, echoing the determination of countless girls who yearn to play, compete, and break barriers. As more girls lace up their boots and take to the field, the possibilities seem as limitless as the open pitch itself. Fatma El-kindiy, the “Try for Change” ambassador, has planted the seeds for a revolution, and with every try scored, every tackle made, and every girl empowered, the future of Tanzanian women’s rugby looks brighter than ever.

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