#icare: Elinor Snowsill speaks out about trolling of women’s rugby players


Elinor Snowsill plays fly-half for Wales and Bristol Bears

It has been a tumultuous week for Elinor Snowsill.

While the Wales and Bristol fly-half was coming to terms with so much uncertainty ahead, trolls on social media told her they did not care.

And so the 31-year-old spoke out on Twitterexternal-link using #icare, a hashtag which has now been shared by several of the sport’s biggest names.

Snowsill wrote: “Do those men trolling articles about women’s rugby genuinely think we are going to believe them when they say they don’t care?

“The simple act of commenting to declare the statement proves the opposite to be true.

“‘#icare about my sport, as do millions of others.”

Organisers are aiming to start the Women’s Six Nations in spring or summer but the postponement will affect preparations for the World Cup, due to start in September.

With most Premier 15s players being amateur, Covid-19 testing has not been possible in the league and so it was decided a break was necessary to stop the spread of the virus.

And so while she finds herself in a precarious professional position, like so many others in the pandemic, Snowsill has also had to deal with ongoing social media trolling.

She told BBC Sport of “relentless” online abuse in August 2019, after the BBC Elite British Sportswomen’s Survey found that 30% of female athletes had been trolled on social media.

The abuse has not gone away and, though Snowsill says it does not affect her personally, she felt compelled to speak out to protect future stars of the sport.

“It doesn’t bother me that these people don’t care about our sport,” she told The Women’s Sport Show.

“What bothers me is the environment it creates. Young boys and girls looking at that post and seeing how many people don’t care about it.

“It’s the values it’s bringing up the next generation of players with.”

This is not the first time female rugby players have stood up for their sport.

When Ireland used players to launch their men’s kit but models to launch the women’s jersey in August, Wasps player Florence Williams’ tweetexternal-link sparked a viral campaign.

#IAmEnough was used by players to discuss the issue of body image in women’s rugby, with Scotland’s Rhona Lloyd one of several internationals to lend her voice to the cause.

“The fact these hashtags are gaining so much momentum shows how far our sport has come,” Snowsill continued.

“People do care now, enough to gather that momentum.

“It’s a form of bullying and we’ve got to call them out for it.”

Reaction to #icare

England World Cup winner Tamara Taylor tweeted: “Women’s sport is sport. Isn’t it time to just accept that?”

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont also used the hashtagexternal-link in reference to a story on recently retired England international Katy Daley-Mclean, calling the fly-half “an inspiration to the next generation of girls and boys”.

Former men’s Premiership player and Bristol Bears Women assistant coach Tom Lindsay showed his support.external-link

He wrote: “Every day this incredible group of athletes keeps raising the bar, whilst breaking through adversity and batting off negative comments.”

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Men’s 6 Nations to go ahead, women’s off


This year’s Women’s Six Nations has been postponed for logistical and safety reasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic but the men’s competition will take place as scheduled.

England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) reported on Wednesday that the women’s tournament, which was due to begin on February 6, will be played later this spring or early summer.

“This is not a decision that we rushed into and we are confident that in looking at a new later window, we will be in a far stronger position to deliver… ensuring the safest possible environment for our players,” Six Nations CEO Ben Morel said.

The RFU statement added the plans to stage the men’s event “remain as scheduled.”

The women’s Six Nations is a key event for teams preparing for the World Cup, which is due to be held in New Zealand starting in September.

Three women’s Six Nations games were cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

The men’s competition starts on February 6 and runs until March 20.





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Pope Francis backs women’s roles in Catholic services


A lector in the Catholic Church can recite prayers and sacred texts such as psalms during Mass and other services, but gospel readings are done by the priest or deacon.

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Australian women’s rights activist faces charges in Tanzania | Australia news


An Australian ex-Muslim women’s rights activist faces “politically motivated” charges in Tanzania, including for a tweet allegedly critical of the country’s president, according to her supporters.

The Australian government is providing consular assistance to Zara Kay, 28, the founder of Faithless Hijabi, a group set up two years ago to support women who are ostracised or face violence if they leave or question Islam.

Kay tweeted on 28 December she was “going into the police station because someone reported me in for blasphemy” and a few days later told her supporters she was out on bail but “still quite traumatised from everything”.

“Please don’t stop fighting for me,” she wrote. “They can try shaking me, but they won’t break me.”

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said on Sunday it was “providing consular assistance to an Australian in Tanzania”. But a spokesperson said Dfat would not provide further comment “owing to our privacy obligations”.

The case was first reported by the ABC on Sunday.

The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims issued a statement saying Kay had been held in police custody for 32 hours from 28 December “without an initial clear indication of charges” and had her passport confiscated.

It said she would be required to return the police station in Dar es Salaam, the administrative capital, on Tuesday.

According to the statement, the charges relate to three issues, including “a social media post deemed to be critical of the president of Tanzania” over the handling of Covid-19 in the east African country.

The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims said Kay was also accused of not returning her Tanzanian passport after gaining Australian citizenship, but added that “she never returned her Tanzanian passport as she misplaced and never used it after gaining Australian citizenship”.

The coalition said the final issue was the use of a mobile sim card registered in a family member’s name rather than her own name, under legislation that the group said “has been used to persecute other high-profile cases”.

“We believe these charges are politically motivated,” the coalition said.

“The International Coalition of Ex-Muslims reiterates its call on the Tanzanian government to immediately drop all the charges against Zara Kay and allow her to leave the country … We also call on the Australian authorities to intervene and get Zara home to safety.”

Kay, who was raised a Shia Muslim in Tanzania, told the Australian newspaper in 2019 that she had been forced to wear the hijab from the age of eight but took it off when she moved to Australia to study in her late teens.

She has renounced Islam and campaigns to help people who struggle when they similarly leave the faith. Kay has held speaking events in Australia on the topic: “Losing your religion can be hard, and for some, it can be fatal”.

Christians comprise about 61% of Tanzania’s population of 59 million people, while Muslims represent about 35%, according to past estimates, and it does not have blasphemy laws. The Australian newspaper reports that Kay faces sedition charges.

It is understood the types of assistance provided by Australian consular staff can include visiting prisons to monitor welfare, checking with local authorities about the Australian’s wellbeing, and providing contact details for local lawyers.

But consular staff typically notify Australians in trouble overseas that they cannot provide direct legal advice, intervene in legal cases or get Australians out of prison.





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Bubbles, troubles and a momentous night for women’s sport


Australia’s women’s T20 team. Meg Lanning’s side defied a wretched start, the elements then the onset of the pandemic by just a matter of days to provide Australian sport with arguably the highlight of the year.

The red hot favourites to claim the Women’s T20 World Cup, Australia lost on opening night and were on the verge of an unceremonious exit by day four of the tournament after a top-order collapse against the unfancied Sri Lanka.

Katy Perry with the triumphant Australian team after they won the T20 World Cup final at the MCG.Credit:Getty Images

Saved by a break in the weather on semi-final night, the host nation destroyed India in front of 86,174 fans, just short of the world record for a women’s sporting event of 90,185. The post-match celebrations on stage with pop megastar Katy Perry will forever be synonymous with a momentous occasion for women’s sport in this country.

England became the first country to host international men’s cricket during the pandemic, averting financial catastrophe by getting away a full fixture list without major incident. The England and Wales Cricket Board was still forced to cut 62 jobs amid fears of losses up to £200 million ($356 million) if there are further disruptions in 2021.

Despite another year of tumult, Cricket Australia could also come out of the year better than expected should the virus not spread far beyond Sydney’s northern beaches and allow the rest of the Tests and Big Bash League to be played out.

The Losers

Kevin Roberts. The early days of COVID-19 were not a good time to be the boss of a major sport – and so it proved for the Cricket Australia chief, who was given his marching orders in June after putting the players, states and his own staff offside with his handling of the pandemic.

Kevin Roberts lost his job as Cricket Australia chief executive in June after weeks of turmoil.

Kevin Roberts lost his job as Cricket Australia chief executive in June after weeks of turmoil.Credit:Getty

Roberts argued the game was not immune to the financial crisis that had beset the global economy but his critics disagreed.

Western Australia. The state is set to miss out on international men’s cricket for the first time since 1976-77, due in part to its government’s hardline stance on its border and a calendar squeeze brought about by the rescheduled Indian Premier League. There is, however, speculation Perth could host a Test against South Africa should a tour of that country be scrapped.

Rachael Haynes. The national vice-captain was integral to Australia’s T20 World Cup triumph and led the Sydney Thunder to the WBBL title, but the star batter missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to party on stage with Katy Perry. The reason? She was having a drugs test.

Controversy corner

Now the national men’s side has cleaned up its act, the stinks involve those in suits instead of the creams.

Cricket Australia and its free-to-air TV partner Seven West Media are in a scrap over the network’s $450 million deal.

Seven is arguing it has not been given what it bought, pointing to the dramatically different 2020-21 schedule. CA says the deal stands as it will deliver a full season.

Unfortunately for the sport, the issue is not being played out behind closed doors, with Seven boss James Warburton firing shots in the media. The case has now headed to the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) and will be before the Federal Court in March.

Man of the year

Pat Cummins. He is a broken bone or dodgy hamstring away from becoming the first frontline quick to captain the Test side since 1956. The speedster’s appointment as vice-captain for all three teams suggests he has the inside running to succeed Tim Paine and/or Aaron Finch, though they are still going strong so a decision on a long-term successor is still some time away.

Will Pat Cummins succeed Tim Paine as Test captain?

Will Pat Cummins succeed Tim Paine as Test captain?Credit:AP

Woman of the year

Alyssa Healy The Australians have a mantra of fearless cricket no matter the situation, though did not always live up to that aspiration during the T20 World Cup. They did in the final, as Healy set the tone with a boundary off the first ball on her way to an explosive 75 off 39 balls. How India must rue dropping her in the first over.

Alyssa Healy was the match-winner in the T20 World Cup final.

Alyssa Healy was the match-winner in the T20 World Cup final.Credit:AAP

Viral moments of the year

Flat tracks, shorter boundaries and bigger bats; it’s a tough life being a bowler, even tougher now using saliva to shine the ball is banned due to COVID-19. Sweat is still permitted, though Cricket Australia implemented tougher guidelines than the ICC, disallowing sweat from the face, neck or head.

Glenn Maxwell flushed a 100-metre switch hit in December in Canberra, sparking debate as to whether the shot, which requires a batter to change from a right- to left-hander (or vice-versa) is fair.

Quote of the year

“We could send the cameras down for free to telecast grade cricket.” – Seven West Media chief executive James Warburton is unhappy with the quality of the Big Bash League.

Crystal ball

Australia regains the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a thrilling victory in the fourth Test but the men’s T20 World Cup eludes them after they lose the final to host nation India. There are biosecurity issues with the team’s return to Australia, delaying the start of the Ashes, which it wins 4-0, prompting captain Tim Paine to play on for another year. Meg Lanning’s all-conquering team scrapes home against a determined England to hold on to the urn as Phoebe Litchfield announces her arrival on the international stage.

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GWS Giants stay with Albury relocation plan for women’s squad amid state border closures due to coronavirus, COVID-19


The plan was to then play a practice match in Victoria on the weekend of January 16-17 before going to Western Australia for their first game of the AFLW season, against Fremantle on January 31.

The second leg of that plan has also been thrown into uncertainty with Western Australia closing its border to Victoria on Thursday.

The Giants are relocating to Albury ahead of round one of the AFLW season.Credit:Matt Turner

The Giants are hoping that Victoria loosens its border closure with NSW in the next 14 days to allow border communities and/or regional NSW residents back into the state.

That would at least open the possibility of fixture changes so that the Giants could play Victorian teams to open their season (instead of the Dockers) should the WA border also remain shut.

There is also the possibility of hubs for the AFLW season but this is more difficult than with the men’s season because most women’s players work other jobs while juggling football commitments.

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The AFL is approaching 2021 the same way it did 2020, with the understanding that plans can change quickly because of COVID-19, and that they may have to change just before the season begins or even during it.

An AFL spokeswoman said: “We will continue to monitor the situation and will be led by the government and health officials when adapting to the changing environment. We are committed to the season and will adjust accordingly as required.”

Meanwhile, Sydney and GWS’ AFL sides plan to commence training on January 6 as initially scheduled, pending any changes to rules about group gatherings in NSW.



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Australia-India women’s cricket series on hold until 2021-22 season


The Australian women’s cricket team’s series against India that had been scheduled for January has been pushed back to next summer and will now become a crucial part of preparations for the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand.

The decision to postpone the series because of the COVID-19 pandemic means Australia’s 2021-22 season will not only include a likely expanded program against India but the already scheduled Ashes series against England.

“We are very hopeful of delivering an expanded schedule between the Australian and Indian women’s teams for next season, which would be an outstanding result for fans in both countries,” Cricket Australia interim CEO Nick Hockley told the cricket.com.au website.

“We had initially hoped to play India this summer; however, the impact of the global pandemic made it necessary to postpone until next season.

“It will be wonderful to once again host the Indian women’s team, who were centre stage for that unforgettable ICC T20 World Cup final at the MCG in March and to do so with an expanded schedule from what was originally planned.”

The extra matches next summer will no doubt enhance Australia’s chances of regaining the one trophy they don’t currently have, the one-day World Cup.

Australia’s World Cup campaign starts on March 5, 2022 against England in Hamilton.

The World Cup had been scheduled for early 2021 in New Zealand but was also postponed due to COVID-19 ramifications.

Both Australia – who are undefeated in their past 21 one-day internationals – and England may yet tour New Zealand in February/March.

Before that, the Australian players will take part in the Women’s National Cricket League 50-over competition, which starts on January 15.



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Tool time at Canberra women’s shed empowers members to get handy and upskill during COVID-19 pandemic


In many respects, women have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic more than men, so it makes sense that 2020 is the year Canberra got its first women’s shed.

Similar to men’s sheds that can be found in many towns across Australia, Canberra’s women’s shed is a place to learn new skills and connect with other people.

Skye Haffner counts herself lucky she still has paid work, unlike other members of the group.

“It started off with a lot of women unfortunately losing their jobs during the pandemic,” she said.

“The women’s shed is there to help women upskill or learn new roles or things like that so I think if anything, the women’s shed has been birthed out of the pandemic.”

The shed is the baby of friends Sunita Kotnala and Robby McGarvey, who conceived the project while working alongside each other at their local community garden.

“We primarily really wanted to focus on tools competency, because while growing up no-one really encouraged us to use any tools or repair things,” Ms Kotnala said.

Robby McGarvey (left) and Sunita Kotnala started the shed earlier this year.(ABC News: Susan McDonald)

But what do you do when you have ambitions for a women’s shed and no shed? You ask for one — in this case a big one.

Sunita and Robby walked into Fyshwick recycled timber business Thor’s Hammer and requested regular access to its commercial workshop.

“We had a chat with Thor and he said ‘yeah, that’s a good idea, I would like to consider it’, and we sent him a proposal and he accepted and that was it,” she said.

Owner Thor Diesendorf agreed to free up a workbench for the women and a cabinet to keep tools, goggles and high-vis vests.

“We’ve got quite a lot of women working here doing apprenticeships and it just sort of seemed to fit in with the business,” he said.

“We let them use our space on a Saturday morning when we’re not quite as busy in production and it’s been working quite well.”

Every woman has a different story to tell

Ms Kotnala admits she was “really bored” with life under coronavirus, before deciding to set up the women’s shed in September.

She had experienced the concept in Sydney and was surprised one did not exist in Canberra when she moved to the capital in March.

A young woman inside a workshop holds a hammer and stands smiling at the camera.
Members can learn from professionals like Lola Munday, an apprentice cabinet maker at Thor’s Hammer.(ABC News: Susan McDonald)

Ms Haffner, who also recently moved to Canberra and is working in the administration side of a major construction firm, said joining had been a learning experience.

“But it’s also made me a lot more confident in potentially if I buy a house soon … renovating, things like that, it just makes me a little bit more empowered to pick up a tool or use things around the home.”

The group now boasts 64 paid-up members who are discussing offering a “pay it forward” option to help more women who may be struggling to join.

The women come from a range of backgrounds and ages — from skilled carpenters to young mums wanting to repurpose old furniture and retired women who desire the confidence to hang a picture frame.

The workshops so far are as diverse as their members — covering chair upholstery, sustainable flower arrangement and “edible suburbia” but the main focus is on learning how to use tools.

“How to hold a drill, how to hold a saw, how to measure things,” Ms Kotnala said.

“Many of our members are living on their own now, living in smaller apartments and they really wanted to learn new skills and work with tools and do basic handyman jobs in their residence, and also express their creativity.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more inspiring place to learn than Thor’s Hammer, a Willy Wonka-like factory for lovers of bespoke floorboards, doors and furniture.

The Women’s Shed projects are more modest — Sunita’s working on a wooden cover to conceal a downpipe — but just as full of purpose and heart.

While the women bring in their own trainers, they can also draw on the guidance of the professionals around them like apprentice cabinet maker Lola Munday.

“It makes me realise how far I’ve come because when I first started I didn’t even know the difference between a drill or a driver,” Ms Munday said.

The group also hosts workshops at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Education Centre and from next year the Hughes Community Centre.



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Saudi Arabia sentences women’s rights activits Loujain al-Hathloul to prison


A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison in a trial that has drawn international condemnation.

Ms al-Hathloul, 31, has been held for more than two years following her arrest along with at least a dozen other women’s rights activist.

The verdict was handed down on Monday, according to the Sabq and al-Shark al-Awsat newspapers, and poses an early challenge to Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relationship with US president-elect Joe Biden.

Mr Biden has previously described the Saudi Government as a “pariah” for its human rights record.

Ms al-Hathloul was charged with seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security, local media said.

The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence, the time served since Ms al-Hathloul was arrested on May 15, 2018.

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United Nations human rights experts have described the charges against her as spurious and, along with leading rights groups and lawmakers in the United States and Europe, have called for her release.

The detentions of women activists occurred shortly before and after the kingdom lifted a ban on women driving, which many activists had long championed.

The change was part of reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that were also accompanied by a crackdown on dissent and an anti-corruption purge.

Ms al-Hathloul’s sentencing came almost three weeks after a Riyadh court jailed US-Saudi physician Walid al-Fitaihi for six years on vague charges related to criticising the government, despite US pressure to release him.

Rights groups have labelled the imprisonment as politically motivated.

Reuters



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Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist who applied for UN job jailed for six years – World News


A Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist who applied for a job at the United Nations has been jailed for nearly six years.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 31, has been held since 2018 following her arrest along with at least a dozen other activists.

Today, a Saudi court sentenced her to five years and eight months in prison, her family and local media said.

Hathloul was charged with seeking to change the Saudi political system and harming national security, Sabq and al-Shark al-Awsat newspapers said.

The court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence – most of the time already served since her arrest on May 15, 2018 – with a conditional release to follow, the newspapers and Hathloul’s sister said.

She could therefore be released around the end of February 2021, with a return to prison possible if she commits any crime, according to the newspapers.

Hathloul was also given a five-year travel ban, her sister Lina tweeted, adding that both the public prosecutor and Hathloul could appeal the judge’s verdict.



The activist championed women’s right to drive and for ending the kingdom’s male guardian system

The trial has drawn international condemnation as Riyadh faces renewed US scrutiny.

The verdict poses an early challenge to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s relationship with US President-elect Joe Biden, who has criticised Riyadh’s human rights record.

UN human rights experts have called the charges “spurious” and along with leading rights groups and politicians in the United States and Europe have called for the woman’s release.

Hathloul, who had championed women’s right to drive and for ending the kingdom’s male guardian system, was subjected to abuse, including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging and sexual assault, rights groups and her family say.

Saudi authorities have denied the charges.

The criminal court last week cleared the prosecution of torturing Hathloul in detention, saying there was no evidence to support the allegations.

Hathloul’s sentencing came nearly three weeks after a Riyadh court jailed US-Saudi physician Walid al-Fitaihi for six years, despite US pressure to release him, in a case rights groups have called politically motivated.

Foreign diplomats said the two trials aimed to send a message at home and abroad that Saudi Arabia would not yield to pressure on human rights issues.

Riyadh could also use the sentences as leverage in future negotiations with the Biden administration, one diplomat said.

Joe Biden has said he will take a firmer line with the kingdom – an oil titan and a major buyer of American arms – than President Donald Trump, who was a strong supporter of Prince Mohammed.

Activist Hathloul rose to prominence in 2013 when she began publicly campaigning for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officials have said the arrests of women activists were made on suspicion of harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad.

Some of the women detainees have been released while their trials continued.

Activist Nassimah al-Saadah was sentenced to five years in prison with two suspended in late November, according to Human Rights Watch.

Hathloul’s family made her charge sheet public after her case was transferred to Riyadh’s Specialised Criminal Court, originally established to try terrorism suspects but which has been used over the past decade to prosecute perceived dissidents.

The main charges against Hathloul, which carried up to a 20-year sentence, include: seeking to change the Saudi political system, calling for an end to male guardianship, attempting to apply for a UN job, attending digital privacy training, communicating with international rights groups and other Saudi activists.

Hathloul was also charged with speaking to foreign diplomats and with international media about women’s rights in the kingdom, including Reuters, which declined to comment.

“The case against Loujain, based solely on her human rights activism, is a travesty of justice and reveals the depths to which they will go to root out independent voices,” said Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch.

The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.





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