The first female known to have played rugby was Emily Valentine, an Irish schoolgirl, who played alongside her brothers in 1884. It took another 80 years for a women's team to be formed, and the first Women's Rugby Union World Cup was held in 1991. Kim Chakanetsa speaks to two women from Uganda and Spain about the game's increasing popularity and how it's changed them.
Patricia Garcia is a profession rugby player who’s competed for Spain in World Cups, Olympics and Test series, as well as appearing in 198 games over multiple 7s tournaments for her country. She now plays in the UK for Exeter Chiefs. She's also passionate about using the sport as positive force and has set up her own charity, PGR NGO, to promote social education and values through rugby.
Winnie Atyang plays rugby in Uganda and uses the sport to support and inspire young women. Winnie became a single mother to twins when she was just 17 years old, and had to drop out of school. She says the rugby community is hugely encouraging: helping her go back to school and then find work to support her family. She also believes playing the sport gives her focus, confidence and ambition.
Produced by Jane Thurlow
(Image: (L) Winnie Atyang, credit Denise Namale. (R) Patricia Garcia, credit FER (Spanish Rugby Union))
Women swimming in the wild
Nora Fakim talks to two women about the health benefits of swimming in the wild.
Rachel Ashe is the founder of Mental Health Swims, a peer support community organising wild swimming or dipping events in the UK. Rachel first tried cold water swimming in 2019, shortly after being diagnosed with mental health conditions, and during the pandemic she went from organising a monthly gathering at her local beach in Wales to running a social enterprise with over 80 groups across the country.
Ilse Theys Woodward is an open water swimmer, a nurse, a swimming instructor and a lifeguard. She’s based in Cape Town, South Africa and she has recently taken part in the Freedom Swim, one of the world’s toughest cold water sea swim races. She’s also a member of the Phoenix Open Water Swimming (POWS), a swimming club working with underprivileged youths in Cape Town.
Produced by Alice Gioia
(Image: (L) Ilse Theys Woodward, credit Ilse Theys Woodward. (R) Rachel Ashe, credit Laura Minns)
An assistance dog changed my life
Women from Brazil and the UK tell Nora Fakim how assistance dogs are improving both their mobility and wellbeing.
Maria Villela lives and works in Brazil. She has glaucoma and was blind by the time she left university. As guide dogs are rare in Brazil, ten years ago Maria decided to email every international guide dog school she could to try and get an assistance animal. She was finally partnered with her dog Spirit through Guide Dogs of the Desert, USA. She says although she lived an independent life before getting her dog, Spirit has given her peace.
Alice Moore-Simmons has brittle bones, a rare condition called Ehlers Danlos syndrome and Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) which causes her blood pressure to drop very suddenly. Alice was given her first assistance dog, Bella, through the charity Dogs for Good, when she was 15 years old. More recently she’s been partnered with Winter who’s trained to look out for signs of Alice passing out, makes sure she has her medication, helps her get dressed, fetches and picks things up. Alice says Winter helps calm her anxiety and gives her confidence.
Produced by Jane Thurlow
(Image: (L) Maria Villela and her dog Spirit, credit Maria Villela. (R) Alice Moore-Simmons and her dog Winter, courtesy Dogs For Good)
Maids to the rich and famous
Rich families around the world employ butlers and maids to look after their expensive properties. These houseworkers have access to every aspect of their employers’ lives: they get to know their habits and their deepest secrets. Kim Chakanetsa talks to two former maids who worked for wealthy families in the USA and the UK.
Stephanie Land is the bestselling author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, a poignant memoir highlighting the plight of overworked and underpaid domestic workers in the USA. Her story has recently been turned into the successful Netflix series, Maid.
When she was 19, Sara Vestin Rahmani moved from Sweden to London to work as an au pair for a rich family. She thought she would only stay for a year, but she quickly became embedded in the family’s life, and was exposed to a lifestyle she never imagined was possible. She is now the director of Bespoke Bureau and the British Butler Academy, a high-end recruitment and training agency of domestic and elite service staff.
Producer: Alice Gioia
(Image: (L) Stephanie Land, credit Ashley Farr. (R) Sara Vestin Rahmani, credit Bespoke Bureau)
Women protecting wildlife from poachers
There are many thousands of people around the world trying to protect endangered species in their natural habitat – around one in ten of them are female but that number is growing. In Africa alone 18 different countries employ female park rangers. Kim Chakanetsa is joined by two women from South Africa and Zambia to talk about what they do.
Tsakane Nxumalo is a junior ranger from The Black Mambas - an unarmed all-female ranger unit in South Africa working in the Greater Kruger National Park. Their job is to protect rhino herds from local bushmeat hunters and organised rhino-poaching syndicates. Since their foundation in 2013 they’ve removed thousands of snares and poison traps, dramatically reducing poaching activity and encouraging people to see the region as a resource for wildlife and nature tourism.
Lisa Siamusantu is part of Kufadza, Zambia’s first all-female anti-poaching community scout unit working with Conservation Lower Zambezi. She’d had to drop out of university and was supporting her mother in their village in near the Lower Zambezi National Park when she saw a recruitment advert for this armed ranger unit. She says the training was the hardest thing she’s ever done, but now she says whatever she does in the future it will have to be with nature and wildlife ‘I don’t want to stop doing this job.’
The teams are funded with money from government, non-government organisations and charity. They’ve both been recognised by World Female Ranger Day which is supporting women wildlife rangers around the world.
Produced by Jane Thurlow
L: Tsakane Nxumalo, courtesy The Black Mambas
R: Lisa Siamusantu, credit Matt Sommerville