’Titan’ of touch fighting for gender equality
Samoa national touch representative and former Manusina captain Gabrielle Apelu wants to address sexism in sport and society.
A national touch player since 2005 and a 3 time gold medalist for the sport, Apelu (36) was named to the squad for this year’s World Cup in Malaysia in April.
She coaches and runs the only women’s sports club in Samoa - the Titans.
Including Apelu, seven women from the Titans are in the squad; five players and two administrators.
“I am most proud of those two, one is the assistant coach and one is the tour manager for the whole group when we fly over,” said Apelu.
“Taking nothing away from being an international player, women in positions of leadership is what I’m most excited about and what Samoa needs more of.”
She said the whole concept of the Titans is about using sport to push for women’s and girls rights.
“Most of my members, they do not play sport.
“We use sport as a vehicle to drive and address gender equity.
“We want to create a safe environment where our members can feel supported and empowered.”
She said sporting success is just a bonus.
“Our Titans club is about the developing of their self-confidence and self-belief, and that’s what they talk about.”
Apelu is a mother of two, who balances sport and family with her role as Game Development Manager for the Australian National Rugby League in Samoa.
She is the first female manager for NRL in the Pacific, and the first in the Football division across the entire organisation.
Apelu said the Titans’ values mirror what she does at work.
“We want to inspire, we want to lead and we want to create this environment that promotes better health and social outcomes, so that we can have a better community, mainly for women and girls..
“I have two children and one of them is a girl, so I want to make sure when I die, i’ll leave the world in a better place.”
She said Samoa has come a long way but there is still a lot of work to be done on the gender equity front.
“It has been an uphill battle, one we gladly take on because we all grow together as we go along.
“We’re knocking at the door, but are not yet through it.”
Apelu noted that there are currently about eight sporting organisations who have women as their chief executive officers.
She wants more women in decision making roles in society, so they can be role models for the next wave of women and girls coming through.
“So it becomes a norm.”
“The world is too harsh for women, it’s not a women’s world, yet.”
She said there is unconscious or deliberate sexism that permeates everywhere.
“It cannot become acceptable, they need to make people in positions of leadership aware that it’s not ok.
Apelu continues to push for more recognition of women in touch.
She said she’s proud of the national team, who look “awesome” and should definitely improve their international ranking at the World Cup.
“But we would like some more financial aid that’s for sure,
Each of the players has to come up with $6000 tala to fund the trip to Malaysia
She said people come to touch from other sports, or from no sporting background at all.
“Because of the group, the dynamics and the support they remain.”