Photo : Paulina Lanco Nzisa
Happy International Women’s day (IWD) happened to be in the course of this week and our correspondent met with Kenya Rugby Union Director Paulina Lanco Nzisa as she exits KRU.
Paulina Lanco known to many as Paula, opted not to vie for a seat in the upcoming Kenya Rugby Union Elections that will be held on 22nd March 2017.
Paula thanks God for a most humbling journey.
“He has graced my life with opportunities that I know looking back is not of any human hand or mine. “
One such opportunity was the invitation to serve on the Kenya Rugby Union Board back in 2012 (as a co-opted Director) brought in to support, streamline and grow the women sport.
The Following year (2013), they made history as a federation by virtue of having the first woman duly elected at the Kenya Rugby Union Board.
She was reelected in 2015 which brings full circle in her tenor as a Director this March, 2017 marking five years of service to the sport.
During this time she served on various board committees among them Women (Chaired); Development; National Squads; Finance and Admin; Infrastructure (specific to status of lease with RFUEA).
Building something out of nothing is not simple which is why the far they have come is so commendable and she thanks all that have been and continue to be part of the journey.
“While I had players willing to put their bodies on the line for nothing or very little, there were a lot more challenges then including but not limited to lack of funding thus delayed allowances, lack of a structured women program etc,“ she said.
“When I attended the first women training I got an awakening to the depth of the challenge I had taken, on discovering whereas the men side got soup and a bun after training, the girls didn’t! The ladies had no changing rooms! “She added.
She recalls that day making a telephone call to the then Chair (Mwangi Muthee) seeking clarity whether this role was meant to promote the sport or position her for failure!
While courageous on the outside, inside her she was thinking “why me God! Why me?!! “
Nzisa chose to consult a few Chairmen with her concerns and that she may not be best suited for this role more so noting she never played rugby – and true to their nature she was promptly reminded that she was elected to advance the women agenda and was to notify them if not up to the task.
Never one to throw in the towel, she made a decision to do the best she could with what she had where she was and folded her sleeves and got down to work.
First things first, She made a commitment to the girls that she would be true to them about the situation therein more so when it was difficult to be. She called on their engagement more so to living up to the values of their then just departed Captain Abedeen Shikoyi.
“We made a vow if for nothing else to soldier on in her memory, play to the highest level possible and work to make her proud. And proud I believe we have made her. “
“We learnt as we went along and some days we failed miserably, were fought from all angles & support just did not seem to be forthcoming. “
Their unrelenting nature however saw things get better; the challenges become less intimidating & more controllable. They defined the brand that is Kenya Lionesses. While operating under little guidance can be intimidating and frustrating, it afforded them the opportunity to start with a totally blank slate, create their own road map, find their direction and determine their destination.
“While much remains to be done, today we boast of a shirt sponsor (SportPesa), are duly kitted, have no outstanding allowances, have changing rooms (thanks to donation by Raphael Nzomo) & get a meal/soup/bun after training. “
“We have & continue to participate in various World Rugby Internationals including World Rugby Invitational; World Series Qualifiers; Maiden HSBC invitation; Runner up Africa Cup 7s and eventual participant to the maiden and historic Women Rugby Olympic games in 2016! “
Locally they have grown the girl/women’s game round the country whereas;
Paula thanked the online influencers for the overwhelming support.
“This journey has now drawn support from among others: Rugby social media influencers (special bow to Kenya Rugby Queen, Shujaapride.com, Kenya Rugby 247, Ragahouse and respective media houses) “
“Individual followers (gratitude to all that tweeted, shared, donated and supported us)”
She sends her sincere appreciation to EABL (led by then MD Joe Muganda) & Safaricom (Bob Collymore, Zahida & rest of the Safaricom team) with whose support the 2014 CAR Women tournament held in Kenya was made possible.
“Special bow to the Club Chairmen (Mwamba, Nakuru, Impala, Kabras, KCB (Suburbs), USIU, Blad Babes (KU), Harlequins (since disbanded giving birth to Homeboys - thank you Paul Amunavi Murunga), COMRAS & Shamas that took the bold decision and continue to have women section thus birthing the reality of a much needed local league. “
“Last but not least to the KRU secretariat team that worked tirelessly to make this happen and our families (hats off to my 3 heartbeats - Bab, Val & Judd #BVJcrew) whose blessing, encouragement, patience and love gave me strength to soldier on. I couldn’t thank you enough & we remain forever indebted to you all.”