World Rugby has confirmed that the women’s edition of the Rugby World Cup will expand to 16 teams from 2025 onwards.
The landmark decision, taken by the Rugby World Cup Board earlier this year, confirms World Rugby’s commitment to accelerating the development of the women’s game globally through its transformational women’s strategic plan of 2017-25.
With women’s rugby interest and participation going from strength to strength, the decision supports a core pillar of the plan in increasing the global competitiveness of women’s international rugby, providing the opportunity for more teams to be more competitive on the biggest stages.
Women’s rugby has experienced record growth in recent years, with women and girls now accounting for 28% of the global playing population.
Interest in Rugby World Cup hosting continues to grow ahead of the formal process beginning in February 2021 and today’s announcement follows recent confirmation of key elements related to the evaluation, publication and voting process for the 2025 and 2029 editions, which will be awarded at the same time as the men’s in May 2022.
Rugby World Cup continues to go from strength to strength and New Zealand 2021 is set to feature a host of exciting new format changes which prioritise player welfare and event promotion.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said “Women’s rugby is the single greatest opportunity to grow the sport globally. In 2017 we set out an ambitious eight-year plan to accelerate the development of women in rugby, with a core pillar focusing on high-performance competition and an ambition to improve and expand the number of teams competing in pinnacle events. We have seen in recent years that more teams are making a statement at international level and unions are continuing to develop their women’s high-performance programmes.
“This is a milestone moment for the women’s game, expansion of the Rugby World Cup opens additional aspirational and inspirational playing pathway opportunities for unions at the highest level of the game and creates an added incentive for unions worldwide to continue to invest and grow in their women’s programmes,” Beaumont concluded.
Hit miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit” has led to a surge of interest in chess, with one popular website registering millions of new players and academies reporting unprecedented demand.
Netflix said the show, which follows the turbulent career of a fictional female child prodigy in the 1950s and 1960s, has become its most-watched ever and is currently the number-one ranked programme in 63 countries.
Gaming site Chess.com said the series had prompted a wave of interest — already piqued by the pandemic and top-flight chess players appearing on the Twitch gaming platform — with new daily registrations up 400 percent.
“Since the release of ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ we have seen roughly 2.5 million new members join,” the website’s Nick Barton told AFP.
“Nearly each day of November we’ve set a new company record for the most members joining.”
Worldwide, Google reported searches for “chess” are at their highest level in 14 years.
It is just the latest burst of popularity for a game that is believed to have originated in India in the seventh century and was played — and occasionally banned — by medieval European kings, before becoming more established in the late 1800s.
In modern times, chess had a resurgence during the Cold War.
That period forms the backdrop for “The Queen’s Gambit”, and the story of a youthful American taking on a wily Soviet grandmaster is inspiring another generation of players.
“There has been a massive surge in adults interested,” according to chess master and Sydney Academy of Chess director Brett Tindall, who called it “unprecedented”.
Tindall told AFP he has fielded calls from 40-50 adults looking for lessons in the last few weeks, and when carrying academy-branded kit he reports being stopped in the street and asked his opinion about the series.
– More women playing – On school visits, normally ambivalent teachers have gone out of their way to approach him, and some students are tuning in too — even though the series features heavy alcohol and drug abuse.
“I was at a school this morning, and few kids were talking about it, and I was like: ‘guys, I don’t think you’re really meant to be watching this show’,” he said.
Chess.com’s Barton said the show’s focus on female lead Beth Harmon — played by Anya Taylor-Joy — had prompted more women to register than usual.
They were now also spending more time on the site than men.
“These shows really help to increase the curiosity value and newcomers are attracted to the game,” Vijay Deshpande, secretary of the All India Chess Federation, told AFP.
“We have a lot of good chess players in the country and the number has grown during the lockdown. Young people are hooked to technology and they were attracted to online chess.”
Grandmaster and former US champion Jennifer Shahade has said she “loved” the show and had been inundated with people asking her for lessons or tips.
“I’m honestly just blown away by all the positive attention chess is getting right now. People get us in a way they haven’t before,” she said on a recent podcast.
“Chess is something people need right now — the introspection, the delightful escape into a smaller world of 64 squares,” she said.
According to Tindall, the interest goes beyond just the game.
The series’ opulent settings, Cold War kitsch and period chess equipment seem to have captured people’s imagination.
“We sell lots of different types of (chess) clocks. I have a lot of older style clocks and recently people want to get the clocks from the show… I’m not joking,” said Tindall.
“A while ago, we were just trying to clear them out. They aren’t really used in competitions any more. We use digital ones.”
Most chess commentators have given the show high marks for authenticity — perhaps unsurprising, given Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov and US chess author Bruce Pandolfini were consultants.
“It’s the best thing I’ve seen about chess,” said French grandmaster Anthony Wirig during an online event about the show.
The “Queen’s Gambit” of the title refers to a popular opening that offers a white pawn as a barbed lure to black, which can accept or decline.
Australian grandmaster Ian Rogers said the lead character Beth Harmon resembles US prodigy Bobby Fischer, who also faced a formidable Soviet opponent.
Fischer’s politically tinged matches against the USSR’s Boris Spassky were watched on television by millions.
“However Harmon’s struggles with pills and alcohol are all her own,” Rogers told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Nowadays Harmon would be banned by WADA’s drug testers long before she reached the top.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the international community to support the Human Rights Council in ending violence against women and girls in the country.
Buhari’s call was contained in a statement issued by the presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Tuesday to mark the November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“I urge the international community to support the mandate and operations of the Human Rights Council in its quest to strengthen institutions in relation to gender equality and empowerment, as well as the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls,” President Buhari said.
“We have developed additional strategies to improve the quality of life for women and girls, redoubling our efforts to improve access to productive resources for women and girls as well as continue to ensure the protection of fundamental rights.
“We are very mindful of the necessity to empower women and girls for the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the African Union Agenda 2063; as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.”
SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ELIMINATING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: NIGERIA’S RESPONSE AND COMMITMENTS TO GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN THE COVID-19 CONTEXT – BY PRESIDENT BUHARI
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and from tomorrow, the United Nations “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence” will begin and end on December 10, 2020.
To commemorate the occasion below is President Muhammadu Buhari’s goodwill message highlighting measures that governments at various levels are putting in place to curb sexual and gender-based violence which has increased due to the lockdown measures introduced to check the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)
November 24, 2020.
Background: The subject of Sexual and Gender-Based violence in all its forms has been recurrent especially considering the alarming statistics of violence against vulnerable persons recorded in Nigeria, particularly women and girls. I am indeed aware of the unfortunate situation from records and reports of incidences in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic and attendant responses by our government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly lock-down measures similarly adopted by other countries worldwide, further exacerbated the already dire situation of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) in Nigeria. Nigeria has long been facing a gender-based violence crisis, with 30% of women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced sexual abuse.
The International Day of Eliminating Violence against Women, therefore, presents a unique opportunity to highlight actions taken by the government to address violence against women and girls.
To address these developments, governments at the Federal and State levels have made the following responses:
Establishment of a National Tool for Gender-based Violence Data Management
Our Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under the Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative and other critical stakeholders developed the National Tool for Gender-based Violence Data Management in Nigeria. The tool is expected to serve as a consolidated database to record and assess the occurrence of GBV during the COVID-19 period and beyond; it is also to document all forms of violence against women and girls in Nigeria using a single, harmonised data collection tool. Over time, the tool will undergo revisions to accommodate wider reporting indices beyond the COVID-19 period.
Committee on the eradication of sexual, gender-based violence
On 23 July 2020, we inaugurated an inter-ministerial committee on the eradication of sexual and gender-based violence in response to worsening cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the country arising from the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus. As part of its mandate, the Committee is expected to conduct a review of all the existing laws and policy instruments touching on offences of rape, child defilement, and gender-based violence and develop for adoption, national prevention of sexual abuse/violence strategy for the period of 2021- 2025, “that identifies and encapsulates measures to enhance response to rape and gender-based violence, set new targets for prevention, intervention, and treatment.”
Development of Gender-Based Policy Guidelines in Emergency Response
Clear indications were made of an absence of gender-focused responses during emergencies such as the COVID-19. This gap has been addressed through the development of Policy Guidelines for Emergency Response, facilitated under the Joint EU-UN Spotlight Initiative by the UN Women and Implementing Partners in the Spotlight States particularly the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Sokoto and Ebonyi States. These policies when implemented, ensure that vulnerable persons, particularly women and children are not left behind in emergencies such as COVID-19.
Improving the economic status of women
To mitigate the socio-economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has prioritized vulnerable groups, including women, in the provision of medical and social assistance. Our administration remains committed to eradicating poverty and enhancing growth and development for women and girls. In the last year, over one million Nigerians have been enrolled in the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable households to enable them to access needed social assistance. Under the National Social Investment Programme, we have commenced cash transfers and distribution of food items to individuals and families across all States in Nigeria as palliatives to cushion the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our administration remains committed to eradicating poverty and enhancing growth and development for women and girls. In order to address gender-based poverty, we have initiated programmes such as: Tradermoni, Marketmoni and Farmersmoni under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme.
Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom
Our administration believes that the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms are critical to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. It is for this reason that I urge the international community to support the mandate and operations of the Human Rights Council in its quest to strengthen institutions in relation to gender equality and empowerment, as well as the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. We have developed additional strategies to improve the quality of life for women and girls, redoubling our efforts to improve access to productive resources for women and girls as well as continue to ensure the protection of fundamental rights. We are very mindful of the necessity to empower women and girls for the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the African Union Agenda 2063; as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.
I wish you successful commemoration and Days of Activism.
No country has been spared by the coronavirus epidemic, nor the scourge of domestic violence, which has surged during lockdowns as the day marking such violence approaches on Wednesday.
From a spike in rapes in Nigeria and South Africa, increased numbers of women missing in Peru, higher rates of women being killed in Brazil and Mexico and overwhelmed associations in Europe: the pandemic has aggravated the plague of sexual violence.
According to UN data released in late September, lockdowns have led to increases in complaints or calls to report domestic abuse of 25 percent in Argentina, 30 percent in Cyprus and France and 33 percent in Singapore.
In essentially all countries, measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in woman and children being confined at home.
“The house is the most dangerous place for women,” Moroccan associations noted in April as they pressed authorities for “an emergency response”.
In India, Heena — not her real name — a 33-year-old cook who lives in Mumbai, said she felt “trapped in my house” with a husband who did not work, consumed drugs and was violent.
As she described what she had endured, she frequently broke down in tears.
After buying drugs, “he would spend the rest of his day either hooked to his phone playing PubG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) or beating me up and abusing me,” she told AFP by telephone.
– Insufficient measures –
On August 15, her husband beat Heena worse than before, in front of their seven-year-old son, and threw her out of the house at 3:00 am.
“I had nowhere to go,” she said. “I could barely move my body -– he beat me to pulp, my body was swollen.”
Instead of going to the police, she made it to a friend’s home and then to her parents.
She is now fighting for custody of her son, “but courts are not working in full capacity due to Covid”.
She has not seen her son in four months, though he manages to call her in secret from time to time.
It is not the just the courts that are hobbled by the virus. The closure of businesses and schools, as well as cultural and athletic activities, have deprived victims already weakened by economic insecurity of ways to escape violence.
Hanaa Edwar of the Iraqi Women’s Network, told AFP there had been “a dangerous deterioration in the socioeconomic situation for families following the lockdown, with more families going into poverty, which leads to violent reactions”.
In Brazil, 648 murders of women were recorded in the first half of the year, a small increase from the same period in 2019 according to the Brazilian Forum for Public Security.
While the government has launched a campaign to encourage women to file complaints, the forum says that measures designed to help victims remain insufficient.
– ‘Mask-19’ –
Worldwide, the United Nations says that only one country in eight has taken measures to lessen the pandemic’s impact on women and children.
In Spain, victims could discreetly ask for help in pharmacies by using the code “mask-19”, and some French associations established contact points in supermarkets.
“The women who came to us were in situations that had become unbearable, dangerous,” said Sophie Cartron, assistant director of an association that worked in a shopping mall near Paris.
“The lockdown established a wall of silence,” she said.
Mobilisation on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women remains uncertain owing to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Marches for women’s rights have nevertheless taken place recently in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Liberia, Namibia and Romania.
“We will not be able to demonstrate to express our anger, or march together,” said the Paris-based feminist group Family Planning.
“But we will make ourselves heard all the same, virtually and visually.”
Tamara Mathebula of the South African Commission for Gender Equality described a chronic “toxic masculinity” that was “everywhere you look”.
“There are gender pay gaps which are widening and continue to widen during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she told AFP.
“Gender-based violence worsened” as a result, she said, and the potential consequences were very serious.
In July, the UN estimated that six months of restrictions could result in 31 million additional cases of sexual violence in the world and seven million unwanted pregnancies.
The situation was also undermining the fight against female genital mutilation and forced marriages, the UN warned.
Riot police on Saturday detained hundreds of women, dragging many into vans, as opposition protesters marched through the Belarusian capital Minsk demanding an end to President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule.
The women were seized by riot police in black uniforms and balaclavas as well as officers in unmarked khaki uniforms and plain-clothed officers in face masks.
Police blocked the women and began pulling them into police vans as they stood with linked hands, swiftly detaining hundreds, an AFP journalist saw. Police lifted some women off their feet in order to remove them.
Around two thousand women took part in the “Sparkly March”, wearing shiny accessories and carrying red-and-white flags of the protest movement.
The march was the latest in a series of all-women protests calling for the strongman to leave following his disputed victory in elections last month.
His opposition rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya also claimed the victory.
Alleged police violence and torture of detainees following the elections have prompted the European Parliament to call for sanctions against Lukashenko and other members of his regime.
– Protest With ‘Woman’s Face’ –
In a statement released ahead of the march, Tikhanovskaya, who has taken refuge in Lithuania, praised the “brave women of Belarus”.
“They are marching despite being constantly menaced and put under pressure,” she said.
The marchers chanted slogans such as “Get out, you and your riot police!” and “We believe we can win!”
One of the placards read: “Our protest has a woman’s face,” a reference to the title of a popular book by the Belarusian Nobel prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, who has backed the opposition cause.
Among those detained on Saturday was Nina Baginskaya, a 73-year-old activist who has become one of the best-known faces of the protest movement, known for her plucky antics and regularly celebrated with a chant of “Nina! Nina!”.
Police took away the flag and flowers she was carrying as they pushed her into a van but released her outside a police station shortly afterwards.
Police detained so many protesters that they ran out of room in vans, releasing around 10 women.
Some women managed to run away and took shelter in a nearby nail bar, Tut.by news site reported.
Ambulances were called after several women became unwell during the detentions. The Belarusian Association of Journalists said that a journalist had been detained and had his nose broken.
Viasna rights group released an online list of names of 217 women detained in Minsk, saying the list was being updated.
Police have not yet given a number of detained.
The protest came as the opposition is due to hold mass demonstrations on Sunday and Tikhanovskaya will meet European Union foreign ministers and the bloc’s diplomatic chief in Brussels on Monday.
The women’s protests began in Belarus after Lukashenko’s use of extreme violence against detained demonstrators.
Women began forming human chains and marching through Minsk and other cities wearing white clothes and carrying flowers in peaceful demonstrations that police initially allowed to go ahead.
Last weekend, police violently detained several dozen at a similar women’s protest.
Lukashenko last week warned of a possible “war” with some neighbouring countries and has turned to Russia for support after refusing to step down.
Women in the Baddo community in Taura local government area of Jigawa state have contributed N1,000 each to purchase a vehicle to transport pregnant women to the hospital during delivery.
According to the women, they contributed the money out of the conditional cash transfer introduced by the federal government.
One of the women, Halima Adamu Boddo, told Channels Television that a vehicle that was donated to them for hospital trips had broken down three years ago, opening up the need for a new vehicle.
“It is with the cash transfer that we are receiving from the federal, that we sat down and thought of how we could help ourselves,” Halima said. “So, we decided to contribute N1,000 each and we bought this vehicle.
The UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, on Thursday highlighted the importance of including women at upcoming peace talks in Doha with the Taliban.
“Human rights and women’s rights are never negotiable,” Lyons, who is Canadian, told the Security Council, adding that she expected a “rough road ahead” for the talks.
“This issue of women’s rights will be more central in the Afghan peace process than we have ever seen in any other peace negotiation in recent memory,” she said.
The government in Kabul said Thursday that it had freed 400 Taliban prisoners under an exchange deal with the militants and expected talks to begin soon in Qatar.
Lyons welcomed the “energetic outreach and substantive preparations” of the women on the Afghan government’s negotiating team.
“We are not yet aware of any women’s representation on the Taliban side, but we remain hopeful that they, too, will find a way of meaningfully including women,” she told the council.
For Lyons, having women at the negotiating table “offers the best opportunity to ensure that their own rights are upheld, and that their vision for elements of a peaceful Afghanistan is reflected in all aspects of the talks.”
Five Afghan women who endured the Taliban’s oppressive rule are on Kabul’s negotiating team.
Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, warned that “no current nor future Afghan government should count on international donor support” if the rights of women and girls are repressed in any way.
Intra-Afghan peace negotiations were initially supposed to begin in March as agreed in a deal between the Taliban and Washington in February, from which Kabul had been excluded.
But repeated squabbles over the prisoner exchange delayed the start of talks, aimed at bringing an end to nearly 19 years of war.
The women’s Under-17 World Cup, due to be held in India in November, has been postponed for three month, FIFA said Tuesday, adding to a growing list of sporting events hit by the pandemic.
The tournament, to be played in five cities across the country, will now start February 17, football’s governing body said.
India is looking to boost its international standing as a host of top sporting events after holding the men’s Under-17 World Cup in 2017.
“All the host cities have put in a lot of effort and commitment so far, and we are happy that the new dates will allow them to make up for the lost time and provide momentum going forward,” the local organising committee said after the FIFA announcement.
FIFA also unveiled new dates for this year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica and Panama. It will now be played from January 20 to February 6, 2021.
The 2020 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Lithuania has been pushed back to September 12 next year.
A federal judge dismissed the United States women’s soccer team’s bid for equal pay on Friday, rejecting claims the players had been underpaid in a crushing defeat for the reigning world champions.
In a 32-page ruling, Judge Gary Klausner of the US District Court for Central California in Los Angeles tossed the women’s claim of pay discrimination, ruling in favour of the United States Soccer Federation.
Klausner did allow the women’s case for unfair treatment in areas such as travel, housing and medical support to proceed to trial, set for June 16 in Los Angeles.
But the judge said the equal pay claims — the central plank of the case — had been dismissed because there was evidence the women had turned down an offer to be paid along the lines of the US men’s team.
“The history of negotiations between the parties demonstrates that the WNT rejected an offer to be paid under the same pay-to-play structure as the MNT, and the WNT was willing to forgo higher bonuses for benefits, such as greater base compensation and the guarantee of a higher number of contracted players,” Klausner wrote.
“Accordingly, plaintiffs cannot now retroactively deem their CBA (collective bargaining agreement) worse than the MNT CBA by reference to what they would have made had they been paid under the MNT’s pay-to-play terms structure when they themselves rejected such a structure,” he said.
The US women were left stunned by their defeat on the pay issue. The women had been seeking back pay of $66 million under the Equal Pay Act.
Prominent US women’s team star Megan Rapinoe said after learning of the court’s decision that the battle is not over.
“We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY,” she wrote on Twitter.
A spokeswoman for the players reacted with dismay following Friday’s ruling.
“We are shocked and disappointed with today’s decision, but we will not give up our hard work for equal pay,” spokeswoman Molly Levinson said.
“We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.
“We have learned that there are tremendous obstacles to change; we know that it takes bravery and courage and perseverance to stand up to them.”
The increasingly acrimonious lawsuit had taken a dramatic turn in March, when a filing by lawyers for the federation argued that US men’s team players required a “higher level of skill based on speed and strength” than the women.
The filing triggered outrage amongst the women’s players while influential sponsors such as Coca-Cola voiced disgust at the remarks.
USSF President Carlos Cordeiro later resigned following the uproar, with Rapinoe accusing the USSF of “blatant sexism” in its legal filings.
The US women, who clinched back-to-back World Cup wins with victory at last year’s finals in France, had based their claim for back pay in the disparities between prize money distributed by FIFA at the men’s and women’s World Cups.
Germany’s men won $35 million for their victory in the 2014 World Cup while France earned $38 million after triumphing in Russia in 2018.
The United States women, victors in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, earned total prize money of $6 million over the two tournaments.
The final of the women’s Euro is set to be played at Wembley, which is also the venue for both semi-finals and the final of the men’s tournament.
The English FA’s director of women’s football, Sue Campbell, said that the host nation backed the decision to delay the tournament by a year.
“We agree that this decision will ultimately benefit the tournament, creating its own window in the football calendar. It will also allow us all more time following this challenging period to deliver an unforgettable event befitting of a home Euro,” she said.
Istanbul police fired tear gas Sunday to prevent hundreds of women marching on the city’s central avenue on International Women’s Day after authorities ban the march for the second year running.
Riot police were trying to disperse the crowds at the popular Taksim Square, close to Istiklal Avenue where the women wanted to march, an AFP correspondent said.
There was a heavy police presence and demonstrators were met by a wall of officers. The situation was calm until the women tried to enter the avenue and officers intervened.
The women marching chanted feminist slogans and some carried placards including: “Trans women are women”, “Abuse cannot be forgiven or excused” and “Long live the feminist struggle”.
Last year’s march was also banned and police fired tear gas at thousands of women on the central avenue, despite a peaceful demonstration in 2018.
The Istanbul governor’s office earlier on Sunday said all roads leading to Taksim Square and Istiklal Avenue would be closed.
The issue of women’s rights is often on the news agenda following high profile femicides, and critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government of not taking violence against women seriously enough.
One killing that had a particular impact was the murder of 38-year-old Turkish woman Emine Bulut at the hands of her former husband in August 2019.
She was killed in front of her 10-year-old daughter.
In 2019, 474 women were killed in murders linked to their gender, according to the women’s rights group “We Will Stop Femicide”, compared with 440 in 2018 and 210 in 2012.