Rugby Empowers Women in Mexico Through Community and Strength

Mexican rugby player Paola Rodríguez highlights the sport’s power in helping women escape cycles of violence and abuse. Despite low participation rates among Mexican women, initiatives like DestElla aim to increase visibility and support for female athletes.

Paola Rodríguez, a member of the Mexican national rugby team, passionately describes the sport that has transformed her life. “Rugby has given me a community and a balance between body and mind,” she says. But beyond personal benefits, Rodríguez emphasizes rugby’s potential to help women break free from “circles of violence and abuse.”

“In Mexico, there are still many forms of violence and abuse against women, and rugby is a platform that has helped many of my friends escape these violent circles,” Rodríguez stated at the launch of Iberdrola Mexico’s DestElla program in Mexico City. This program aims to empower women through sports, starting with rugby.

The physical and psychological benefits of sports, as highlighted by Rodríguez, are not widely experienced among Mexican women. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), only 34% of women in Mexico engage in sports activities. A mere 20% of registered athletes in professional leagues are women, and only 30% have access to sports facilities.

Only 40% of girls in primary education participate in sports compared to 60% of boys. This disparity extends into adulthood, with 70.1% of women aged 15 and older experiencing at least one incident of violence in their lives, be it psychological, economic, physical, sexual, or discrimination, according to Inegi’s 2021 data.

To address these issues, Rodríguez calls for greater visibility of female athletes. “Girls cannot aspire to something they don’t know exists. If they don’t know there’s a rugby, gymnast, or soccer player, they can’t believe they can achieve it,” she asserts.

Supporting Female Sports Through DestElla

One of the main goals of Iberdrola Mexico’s DestElla initiative, announced this Tuesday, is to support the growth of women’s rugby. The program’s first phase focuses on this sport through a collaboration agreement with Mexico’s rugby federation. In an interview with EFE, Katya Somohano, general director of Iberdrola Mexico, explained that the program aims to “help rugby continue to grow” by activating training programs in schools from primary to higher education.

Additionally, DestElla seeks to strengthen the community of female players by providing uniforms, training equipment, and access to gyms. The program also supports high-performance athletes with resources for lodging and meals during training camps. “It’s about creating the conditions for more girls to dedicate themselves to this discipline, a sport that requires mental and physical strength and embodies values we identify with resilience, discipline, integrity, and respect,” added Somohano.

Since 2016, Iberdrola Mexico has been part of a global push to support women’s sports. The company supports over 800,000 athletes and sponsors the national women’s soccer teams in Spain, Brazil, and Portugal, as well as the Scottish League and Scottish Women’s Football.

For Rodríguez, the DestElla program represents an “impressive” opportunity that Mexican players have long awaited. She sees it as a crucial support system to overcome some of the barriers female athletes face. This initiative aligns with a broader movement across Latin America to empower women through sports and break down long-standing barriers.

With its demanding physical and mental challenges, Rugby offers a unique platform for women to develop strength, resilience, and a sense of community. The sport’s values of integrity and respect resonate deeply with participants, fostering an environment where women can thrive on and off the field.

The Broader Impact of Rugby in Latin America

Rugby’s impact extends beyond individual players. In a region where women’s sports often receive less attention and funding, programs like DestElla are vital. They provide much-needed resources and visibility, helping to shift cultural perceptions and encourage broader participation in sports.

Historically, Latin American countries have struggled with gender equality in sports. Promoting women’s participation is not just about creating athletes but also about fostering healthier, more empowered communities. Rugby, emphasizing teamwork and mutual respect, is a powerful tool for social change.

The journey for women’s rugby in Mexico is just beginning. With increased support from initiatives like DestElla, hope for a brighter future exists. Greater visibility and access to resources can inspire the next generation of female athletes, showing them they can excel in sports too.

The success of programs like DestElla depends on continued investment and community engagement. These initiatives can build momentum and drive change by highlighting the stories of athletes like Paola Rodríguez and the transformative power of sports.

Also read: São Paulo, Brazil to Host 2024 Beach Tennis World Cup

Rugby is more than just a sport for many women in Mexico. It is a lifeline, offering a way out of violence and a path to personal and communal growth. With sustained support and visibility, women’s rugby can flourish, bringing a new era of empowerment and equality in Latin American sports.

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